Directed by: Nzingha Stewart
Written by: Sam Wolfson
Starring: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, Paris Berelc, Luke Eisner, Clara Wilsey
The ideal body type and harsh beauty standards have been incredibly harmful to the way girls look at themselves. That ideal has shifted throughout the centuries but it always ends up being unattainable. That insecurity takes place and will forever be the case, and this ghastly film makes it in regards to height.
Jodi (Ava Michelle) stands at 6 ft 1½ inches and\ has always been the tallest person in her class. She’s so tall in fact that her father (Steve Zahn) has harbored concerns that her length would fatally affect his daughter. Jodi has a sister (Sabrina Carpenter), who holds all of the ideal qualities for what an attractive woman should be and wins multiple beauty pageants. Our protagonist spends most of her days being picked on because of her unbelievably astronomical height and any guy who would approach her runs away once they see just how tall she stands.
Listen, I’ve known women who’ve been insecure about their height because men they try to date get unconfident if the female stands taller. It’s a legitimate concern and I definitely respect that plight. Trying to shed a light on that struggle is the intention of Tall Girl, however, the execution of the story results in a self-absorbed ridiculous world where nothing makes sense or gives any purpose for this film to exist.
Let’s start with the crux of Jodi’s issue, her height. She stands at 6 ft 1½ inches, which is taller than the average American female. That’s something to work with, especially considering the beauty standards in this country, but where the film loses any sympathy starts when Jodi says, “You think your life is hard? I’m a high school junior wearing size 13 Nikes.” Jodi, there are people in schools getting racially discriminated against and verbally abused. Those are the ones that even get to receive an education and the financially privileged life she’s lived. To be fair, she has to put up with the constant “How’s the weather up there?” jokes that somehow people make well into high school. The audience should care for her but from the beginning, but she seeks to put down issues others have because of her height.
It only makes the film worse by casting actors shorter than her height to make her look like a giant among them. Now, I’ve never been to New Orleans but I am pretty sure many of the public schools have a basketball team. Does this specific school have no one that comes close to reaching anywhere near 6 feet? The team probably does not perform well that was the case. It’s not that some of the guys are slightly shorter than her, this film specifically makes everyone look almost 6 inches shorter than her. So the next tallest person in the school would be perhaps 5 ft 8 ½ inches tall? While Jodi would be taller than me, that height is not so exorbitantly tall that would realistically cause any of the abuse she receives from her classmates. It’s a sick nightmare the film wants the audience to buy into and it shows despite their good intentions that it’s a mean-spirited story.
There are other characters in the story that either help her or are viciously cruel. There’s Jodi’s best friend Fareeda (Anjelika Washington), who always supports her and encourages her to have self-confidence. Her other friend, Dunkleman (Griffin Gluck) has been in love with Jodi for years but never stands a chance because he’s much shorter than her. Then there are the school bullies in Kimmy (Clara Wilsey) and Schnipper (Rico Paris). Jodi has no faith that she’ll find a guy until a foreign exchange student from Sweden arrives named Stig (Luke Eisner). Miraculously, this is the first person in the school who is over 6ft tall, which makes him the perfect match with Jodi. The perfect couple because of their height, not through personality or any emotional connection. Jodi wants him because he’s attractive and happens to be near the same height as her. The usual high school hijinx ensues and the film goes exactly how you think it will go, but it did show its utter incompetence in other ways.
One of the most horrible storytelling plot devices in this film includes the use of this crate that Dunkleman carries around. All throughout the film, people are so confused as to why Dunkleman carriers around this milk crate. He has it everywhere he goes to an alarming degree. Now, I’m not going to spoil exactly why he carries around that crate but it’s so inconceivably dumb that I nearly canceled my Netflix subscription on the spot. Dunkleman represents one of those toxic high school boys that pretend to be nice to girls but will sabotage them until they get what they want. Overall, just a terrible human being. It’s horrifying how his character progresses throughout the story and the audience should be sympathizing with him. I’ll repeat that; the audience should be sympathizing with these characters.
Jodi’s father becomes so appalled by her height that he considered giving his daughter drugs from a young age to simply stop her from growing to her natural height. It’s played for comedy but that’s impossible when looking at the rest of the film and every other aspect of the story. The only people that treat Jodi with any semblance of respect are her best friend and sister, who can see beyond her height and see her as a person. Something nearly every other person in this film forgets to do.
Not sure what humanity did to deserve this film, but it’s a story intending to shine a light on the insecurity of tall girls, but fails so miserably that it left me thinking that the storytellers actually hate tall people. From the dumb jokes to the fact that Jodi is just not that interesting and all of the other toxic elements in the story, Tall Girl stands as a putrid movie or as Netflix would describe, worthless content.