I’m going to try to go easy on this film. As I ignorantly went into it thinking it was a Netflix-made film, I was very confused. I quickly realized though that it wasn’t, so I eased up. However that doesn’t at all mean it’s a decent film or that you have to go easy on it either as it is very frustrating to consume.
Half way through the film I forgot what it was even about. The direction is so scattered, and with a very dull script to boot, there is a limited amount to work with. I can see the effort and the potential that did go in in terms of direction, but none of the comedy landed with me. I think this was due to the editing, which leads me to my main beef in this section… It feels like a half revised second rough draft. A lot of the mistakes seem like lack of common sense. Some of the transitions work, but they are practically nonexistent in the last half and it feels like a completely different movie at times. In the scene where Jack Dunckleman is introduced, the camera pans up as Jodi narrates how we might be wondering why he is carrying a milk crate. Well, this would probably work if it was edited to match the image with the narration on point. But she says it right before we see what he’s even carrying. There are also a lot of moments where the cutting is really fast and choppy, only to realize it’s supposed to be for comedic effect. It missed the mark for me every time.
TLDR: I’ve seen children on YouTube edit better than this.
The plot of Tall Girl is the worst part of every lame cliche teen film in the last decade all collided into one rolling tumbleweed. You’d think it would be pretty simple, but it’s a mess.
Jodi, a high school girl who towers over her classmates, is constantly bullied and put under scrutiny for her height. Her two best friends, Fareeda (the spunky free spirit) and Dunckleman (who is in love with Jodi), actively try to hype her up as she’s always in the dumps about not being able to have a boyfriend as tall as her. Dunckleman, who is basically Duckie from Pretty in Pink, is constantly trying to get Jodi to date him. When a very tall new student from Sweden arrives (in a painfully cringey entrance), this might change things for Jodi. It definitely changes for Dunckleman, who finds out he is now housing the new kid, Stig Mohlin. If I wrote out the rest of the plot, it would just be explaining the whole film, and that isn’t something I should be doing, so I’ll digress. The rest of the story feels like a long winded episode of Degrassi in that it is predictable but with no clear goal. We are just watching these characters go from thing to thing. This can work sometimes if you set up the right story line for it, but this feels like there is going to be a typical story arc and we never even achieve that.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I can definitely see the teen actors going on and doing great things. Ava Michelle’s days on Dance Moms are over and I’m very delighted to see her in an acting role. It’s not her first, and I don’t think it will be her last. Anjelika Washington is a ray of light as Fareeda, and it’s a damn shame she gets less than ten minutes of screen time. Sabrina Carpenter (Sierra Burgess Is A Loser) as older sister Harper and Griffin Gluck (American Vandal) as Dunckleman are my absolute faves! They’re both very talented and their well played queues made the film bearable. I normally really like Angela Kinsey, but her performance was an eye roll as Jodi’s mom. Her dad, played by Steve Zahn, was only a little better. I had a hard time believing most of the characters in general.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Watching this film sent me back to moments in film school where the sound on films I worked on ended up being the worst part of the whole thing. It’s embarrassing and can truly ruin a project if done wrong or left until the last minute. This was especially true for this film. I was very annoyed with how echoey most of the dialogue sounded and the poorly cut over the shoulder dubbing that is visibly off. Going back through it for a second view, I noticed some terrible ADR, however in those moments, their voices actually sound how they’re supposed to. The poppy songs chosen for the film were effective. My favorite is 'Light On' by Maggie Rogers. Even if it is awkwardly played back to back at the end of the film.
The lighting? Bad. The cinematography? Okay. There's far too many moments of random quadrant framing during conversations that I found jarring due to the fact that this isn’t a super serious film. I felt like the camera struggled to find its footing the whole time, which leads me to believe it’s a director of photography just starting out their career. But, hey, we all start somewhere! When it works, it works. Sadly, it doesn’t work the whole time.
The production design was one of the stronger aspects of the film. When the film first comes to mind I remember Jodi and Harper’s bedrooms and how they represent them to a T. I also remember the house that holds the escape room Jodi and the popular kids go to later on. The house that is the escape room is in a French-quarter style home, since they are in New Orleans. It’s my favorite setting of the whole film with its elegant décor and set dressing from the 1900s. I give this half because I didn’t know where the hell we were for the first half of the film and I would have liked to see better establishing shots of NOLA.
I wish I had better things to say about this. I don’t like having to write these types of reviews, especially when I’m looking forward to seeing the film. I think I hyped it up in my mind being a Netflix film, but alas, it was all for naught. I was really under the impression it was going to be like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. I’m honestly surprised a rookie film such as this got as much marketing as it did. I would hope this is a good sign for indie films in general getting more traction on the site. With all the new platforms being introduced, could Netflix possibly be a new hub for the indie market? We will just have to see. There is so much more I can talk about, but what I will say is that this movie has a strong message about accepting yourself and not caring what people think. I think the issue is assuming we as a society don’t find an already conventionally pretty girl, who is just tall, as not worthy... Also that 6ft people should be angled to look 10ft for dramatic effect, but that’s another rant for another day.