Netflix’s Tall Girl falls short

Emma Niland, Staff Writer

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By Emma Niland

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen this film and want to, you will be warned when to stop reading.

With its release of Tall Girl, Netflix embarks on a unique journey with insight on the daily life and plight of being, of course, a tall girl. As a tall girl myself, I was excited to watch the film, and with the arrival of its release date of Sept. 13, I rushed to sit down on my couch after school and watch it for its entire 1:41 duration. And I have some thoughts. And spoilers.

The main focus of the movie is to paint a picture of the life of a high school tall girl, including the tormenting that “tall girl” Jodi, played by actress Ava Michelle, experiences from her classmates, the level of uncomfort she endures at home with her father, and the seemingly impossible task of finding true love. Standing at over 6-1, Michelle seems to be a perfect fit for the movie’s leading role, and the same can be said for 6-2 Luke Eisner, who plays Jodi’s Sweedish love interest Stig. However, Michelle and Eisner seem not only tall, but rather larger-than-life in comparison to the other leading roles, who stand at 5-7 or shorter and are of thinner-builds. Michelle’s man-size 13 feet may seem fitting for her height and body type, but put her next to her 5-0 on-screen sister Harper, played by Sabrina Carpenter, and you would think she was Big Foot. 

This was my main concern for the movie. Yes, it is about a tall girl, and the protagonist is tall! But the directors and casting directors did not just make Michelle look tall. No, they made her look rather large in comparison to her castmates. Not only that, but the way that Jodi’s own friends treat her almost perpetuates the uncomfortable sense that many tall girls feel because they tend to stand out, and a few times during the movie I felt that the concept that tall people should be ostracized in society was endorsed, not eliminated.

A little misleading, if you ask me.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The film begins with the introduction of Jodi, her family, and her friends. Jodi’s father, played by Steve Zahn, earned an automatic “No” from me in the beginning of the film, for his negativity and pessimism towards Jodi’s height and physical build astounded me. Why would a father feel that way so openly about his daughter? Yet to my surprise, he himself even experiences a coming-of-age story in the film, so for all new viewers, don’t judge him too quickly, for his persona completely flips and at the end of the movie he is one of Jodi’s biggest supporters. Unfortunately, many fathers do not go through such a character change as Jodi’s father does in such little time, making Tall Girl seem even more unrealistic. But most movies are unrealistic, right?

Meanwhile, Jodi’s best friend Jack, played by Griffin Gluck, is undoubtedly in love with her and constantly reminds Jodi that her height shouldn’t matter and that he would be a perfect boyfriend for her. Despite his loyalty and admiration for Jodi, he is disregarded as a potential boyfriend for her due to his inability to meet Jodi’s one obvious boyfriend requirement: to be taller than her. This crushes Jack, yet he is relentless, earning a swoon from the audience. Jack is an obvious favorite among the movie’s audience, for his charisma and charm keep the tone of the story light and comedic.

Another standout character is Fareeda, Jodi’s best friend, played by Anjelika Washington. Standing at 5-4 (and proud, may I add), Fareeda plays the strong, confident, closest confident of Jodi. She never fails to stand up for Jodi when she is being picked on, but has a hard time dealing with Jodi’s negative attitude towards her height. I personally did love Fareeda’s character because sure, the message behind her advice for Jodi to be confident in herself is positive, but she is not the one who has to deal with being taller than everyone else in the grade. She has no problem being confident in everything about herself because she is, to put it bluntly, average. She doesn’t stand out in any way besides for her colorful pieces of hair, but in the age of Millennials and Gen Z’ers, does that even count as unique? 

Nevertheless, the true purpose of the movie is to encourage tall girls across the world to be proud of who they are, and truthfully I do think Washington’s, Gluck’s, and Eisner’s characters contribute to that. In fact, at the end of the move, when Jodi wears a standout outfit to the homecoming dance and gives a speech about self-confidence and loving who you are, I felt as though it was silly of me to feel embarrassed of my height at all. But then I remembered that it takes more than just a few days and experiences to make your whole thought process about your body to change. Once again, I felt as if the movie was unrealistic, yet completely predictable, as every romantic comedy should be.

But was this movie supposed to fit into the box of the stereotypical “rom com,” or was it supposed to be a motivating film about accepting yourself? 

I feel as though the movie is almost entirely unrealistic, for it had almost a fairytale feeling to it throughout the plot. Personally, I find it hard to believe that any girl, or boy for that matter, would go to the stage and speak about his or her insecurities while wearing the most flamboyant outfit. 

To be concise, was the overall message of Tall Girl heartwarming? Sure. But did it encourage me to do anything about the way I feel about myself or how other people talk down to me because of my height? Nope, not one bit.