“Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall.”
In one of Netflix’s freshest releases, the streaming service’s at-home audience is brought into the world of Jodi Kreyman (played by Ava Michelle), who is – as the title reveals – a tall girl.
Before deciding to watch this Netflix original movie, I saw exactly one teaser clip for the movie, and actually made up my mind to view based on the fact that Jodi’s mom, Helaine Kreyman, is played by former The Office star Angela Kinsey – because why ever the hell not.
The movie starts off fairly typical for a teen rom-com; there’s a high school, there’s an awkward girl, there’s a quirky best friend, a gorgeous mean girl, a tall and handsome love interest to be paired against the other love interest, Jodi’s best-guy-friend.
The movie also advertised itself as an ode to self-love that documents the struggles that taller girls face, as well as a testament against bullying. The movie advertised itself in a way that made me feel as though there would be a weighty discussion on the effects of bullying and the impacts of Jodi’s height….
…except, the movie fell flat on it’s face when it came to reaching that lofty goal.
In one of the opening scenes, Jodi is shown walking down her high school’s hall, hands deep the pants of her denim jumpsuit, hair pulled back into a ponytail and eyes downcast as her classmates harass her with mockery in the form of asking “how’s the weather up there?”
“You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes,” says voiceover-Jodi. “Men’s size 13 Nikes. Beat that.”
At age 16, standing at 6’1 and a half, Jodi is tall; she towers over even the boys in her school and seems to be the primary target when it comes to her classmate’s jokes and jabs – because a tall girl is completely ridiculous…right?
Except Jodi isn’t just tall, she’s a blond beauty. Lithe, graceful, an accomplished pianist, a delicate bone structure and blue-eyed, Jodi looks like a 6’1 Norse goddess – which makes it a little hard to believe that her teenaged classmates would find her height so completely unacceptable and jokey.
We are shown a girl who is tall (strike 1), doesn’t dress like a prep girl (strike 2) and doesn’t wear makeup (strike 3) and expected to simply accept that Jodi is naturally going to be the butt of the entire school’s jokes – the entire school except for her two best friends, Fareeda (who doesn’t even get a last name) and Jack Dunkleman.
Fareeda is the teen rom-com dream BFF – quirky, empowering, a go-getter and loud, Fareeda has lots of personality, but not a unique personality for the genre.
Meanwhile, Jack is the swooning-been-friends-too-long guy pal who trails behind the doesn’t-realize-she’s-beautiful Jodi. He’s smitten. It’s obvious right from the start that they’ll end up together. Jack carries his books in a milk crate and greets Jodi each morning with a cheesy pick-up line and a promise to win her heart. A promise that Jodi never believes he will be able to keep. After all…Jodi has a “dream boyfriend checklist” and one of the top items on that list is for her man to be taller than her and Jack, who barely comes up to her shoulders, doesn’t make the cut.
Enter, teenage-dream transfer student Stig Mohlin.
He’s blond. He’s got a winning smile. He’s an instant heartthrob and, most importantly of all, he’s taller than Jodi.
It’s a rom-com, we all know where it goes from there. It follows a pretty standard procedure when dealing with a love triangle: Jodi likes Stig, Jack likes Jodi, Stig has a mean-girl girlfriend, blah blah blah.
The movie that promised to be heartfelt as it discussed the topic of tall girl struggles de-evolved into a teenaged relationship drama.
Stig is dating mean-girl Kimmy, Jodi pines.
Stig and Jack form an unlikely frenemyship.
Jodi pushes Jack away, so Jack goes out with popular-girl Liz in order to spite Jodi into recognizing him.
Jodi begs her beauty-queen sister into giving her a makeover in order to catch Stig’s attention, and it works.
Nothing can be simple in teen relationships, I suppose and we are forced to endure a series of Jack dating Liz, Jodi dating this guy named Schnipper in order to spite both Stig…and Jack? and Stig being torn between the beautiful Kimmy and the beautiful (but tall, so, therefore, less beautiful?) Jodi.
It’s a right proper mess of things, and I didn’t start this movie to roll my eyes over teenaged relationship drama or to watch up-close kiss scenes…but here I am.
I feel most for poor girl Fareeda over there, because while all these dramatics are going down, the storyline excuses her absence by having her and Jodi fight (over Jodi not being willing to accept how drop-dead gorgeous she is). Then, the two fight for a second time because Jodi continues to pine for Stig to the point where she actually agrees to go hang out with the popular kids – you know, the ones who tormented her for years? but also the ones Stig hangs out with – in order to get closer to the Swedish exchange student.
Jodi pushes away the friend who has always defended and fought for her…and then wonders why she ends up feeling so alone later on in the movie.
The movie tries to start off well, but completely fumbles during the middle. It falls into stereotypes and cliches and tropes. It disintegrates into a drama-filled account of teenage romance instead of the message of self-love. Instead of being a powerful movie featuring a taller-than-average main character, it was about cliches and mean girls and trying to change who you are to win the heart of a guy.
In the final minutes of the story, Tall Girl attempts to make good some of what it promised.
Jodi realizes that she’s been hurling her 6’1 self at a boy who isn’t worth her love, she realizes she’s made a horrible mistake when it comes to her friendship with Fareeda, and she repairs some tense relations with her parents (especially her dad, with a tender piano scene that – quite honestly – was the highlight of the whole movie).
Also, Jodi also finally sees short Jack for the big heart he has (even though he literally dated another girl for most of the movie to piss Jodi off…?)
In a nearing-the-final scene at her school’s homecoming, Jodi stands tall and finally expresses her self-love for herself – all while wearing heels. After holding the mic and declaring her newfound pride in who she is, an unapologetically tall girl, Jodi receives applause from the classmates who, just a few days ago, apparently mocked her shamelessly.
Everyone claps, all but mean-girl Kimmy and Stig who realizes that he chose the wrong girl, anyway.
It’s a cheap scene, but all the cheaper for Tall Girl, since the movie promised so much more and could have very easily cashed in on that promise in a way that was deep and meaningful. Instead, it is brief, rushed and backed by very little on-scene growth. Jodi doesn’t slowly learn to love herself. She slaps makeup on, starts styling her hair and then suffers a heartbreak before realizing “dang. I don’t need to be beautiful – I just need to be me!”
The end of the movie ends just as we expect it would – there’s a kiss, Jodi is gorgeous, Jack made good on his promise to win the tall’s girls big heart and, perhaps most importantly of all, we learn why Jack refuses to use a book bag and instead carries his school supplies around in a milk crate.
Tall Girl tries really hard. Really, really hard. But in the end, it just slid back into a cliche mess that felt less like a power-ode to tall girls and instead, a forgettable addition to the hundreds of other teen roms.
The majority of Tall Girl is crammed with relationship struggles, love triangles and tropes and less heart and soul.
I expected a lot out of Tall Girl – which maybe was my mistake, but I really did. I was looking for a movie with sustenance and soul, and instead got a fluffy teenage bop that will be easily forgotten in the tidal waves of other, more interesting and more engaging Netflix originals.
When it comes down to it, Tall Girl didn’t know which story to tell: the struggles of an awkward teenaged tall girl? The love-triangle of a dork and his tall love interest? A transfer student’s desire to be popular and accepted?
So it told all of them.
And told none of them well.