Logging onto Netflix looking for something to watch can be a mind-numbing experience. Since the company began producing its own original content, there have been several hits worth celebrating (Russian Doll, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, just to name a few) and several, if not more confusing misses (Bird Box, whatever that movie Bright was.) The speed and volume with which Netflix releases new material (the company is reportedly on track to spend around $15 billion on original content this year) means that the worst of it typically passes in the blink of an eye. It also means as long as Netflix keeps burning through money, staring at user data to edit their algorithms like a jeweler examining diamonds, we’ll get movies like Tall Girl.
Tall Girl is a movie about a girl named Jodi (Ava Michelle) who is 6'1. Unfortunately, she goes to school with a bunch of teenagers who I’m supposed to believe care about her height. Their mockery largely manifests in silly quips and puns (after Jodi says she wants to grow up to be Taylor Swift, a queen bee offers “more like Tall-er Swift”) and comments about her being a giraffe. It’s the latest rom-com for teens to grace the platform, following the hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth, and that’s not to mention shows like 13 Reasons Why, Sex Education, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Jodi is gorgeous, white, blonde, svelte, but her sister is a pageant queen and her only love interest is her dorky BFF Jack (Griffin Gluck), who carries around his books in a wooden crate and pines for Jodi with the confidence of a boy three seconds from being red-pilled; he keeps the crate around in case he needs something to stand on to kiss Jodi. Give me a break! The audience is clearly supposed to think Jodi is persecuted, but it’s hard to believe anyone would mercilessly bully this extremely beautiful girl who wears her hair in a ponytail (gasp) and doesn’t wear makeup (double gasp). What’s a girl to do besides mope around feeling bad about her height and never develop a personality beyond that because the writer is incapable of developing a well-rounded teen girl character?
A gorgeous Swedish exchange student named Stig (Luke Eisner) moves to town and he is, would you look at that, also tall. Jodi has a crush on him, but so does every girl in school, and soon he’s dating the school’s lead mean girl Kimmy (Clara Wilsey.) But he’s drawn to Jodi, as the two discover they enjoy musicals. And then the film falls into an extremely comfortable, routine teen romance: Jodi likes Stig, Stig likes Jodi, Stig doesn’t want to be with Jodi publicly because it will make him unpopular, and Jack wonders why Jodi can’t just date him, the boy who’s always been there for her. The movie seems to be going through the rusty motions of its genre, a train heading steadily and soundly to its destination: a dramatic homecoming dance where someone makes a speech. Of course, that person is Jodi, who reminds the entire school that she’s more than just a tall girl, but the speech reads like a laundry list of basic attributes assigned to the role on paper: “I’m so much more than a tall girl. I’m a sister. I’m a best friend,” Jodi says.
The moment you finish watching Tall Girl, it feels like someone has immediately erased it from your memory. It is a drab, sad excuse for a teen movie, so blank in its messages (what makes you different makes you unique, and bullying is bad) that you understand why it settled on height as the main criteria its heroine battles; anything else would have required more depth. I’m almost offended the movie didn’t lean more into the tall girl aspect. Make her family circus freaks! Make her, I don’t know, taller?! A giant! That, I’d watch.
Snarking on Tall Girl is low-hanging fruit, but it’s hard not to take notice in a moment when Netflix is trying harder than ever to push their streaming platform into an originals-only space. Last year, Quartz reports, the service released 1,500 hours of original content, what they estimate would take four hours of streaming every day in 2018 to get through. Tall Girl is ultimately just another plot in Netflix’s original content graveyard, a movie people will click on because it’s there, in their menu when they pull up the app, and nothing more.
Tall Girl is currently streaming on Netflix.