Ian Samuels makes his feature directorial debut with the Netflix high school rom-com “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” hot on the heels of the streaming service’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (sharing a love interest in Noah Centineo). With a script by Lindsey Beer, the film stars Shannon Purser of “Stranger Things” as the decidedly Ringwaldian smarty pants Sierra Burgess. It’s a story that infuses “Pretty in Pink” with “Cyrano de Bergerac,” or as the kids call it, “catfishing.”
Sierra’s got successful, affirmation-spouting parents (John Hughes alums Alan Ruck and Lea Thompson), and a cool best friend, Dan (RJ Cyler), but she’s an object of derision for prototypical mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth). When Veronica passes off Sierra’s number to Jamey (Centineo), a suitor she considers a loser, Sierra falls head over text message for the quarterback with a heart of gold.
Samuels and cinematographer John W. Rutland shot the film with a faded golden hue, and the synthy score by Bram Inscore and Brett McLaughlin gives it a nostalgic ’80s retro feel.
There’s a comfortable intimacy to the visual style, and Purser leads the heartfelt film with her vulnerable performance. Centineo once again proves to be irresistible, even if his character is just a little bit too good to be true.
Surprisingly, the film actually gives the mean girl a real life, diving into her psychology and home life, and Froseth navigates Veronica’s journey with grace.
Each character is given a chance at failure and redemption, which is what makes “Sierra Burgess” feel like such a well-rounded world. The smart script and butterfly-inducing romance captures those sweet moments of falling in love — whether it’s with your crush, or even better, with a friend.
‘Sierra Burgess Is a Loser’
Rated: PG-13, for sexual references, language, teen partying and thematic material
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes