- Katie Bell
Tall Girl - 2019
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Well, it turns out Netflix's original film Tall Girl is very genuinely about a tall girl. Who'd have thought? I will say this though, despite the story centreing around the film's protagonist Jodi (Ava Michelle) and her difficulties with being tall, it does address a larger message that isn't the worst message for its target audience to absorb.
The film doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to Jodi's issues with her height. Yes, there is the not-so-subtle title, but additionally, at various points camera angles are used to emphasise her height in comparison to other characters, and the dialogue regularly refers to it. In the introductory scenes of the film, Jodi is approached by a barrage of students asking her how the weather is "up there". The repetition is used to tell us that she apparently gets this a lot. And we get it. This teasing by other students continues throughout the film, with familiar mean girl Kimmy (Clara Wilsey), even going so far as to say, "You're the tall girl. You'll never be the pretty girl". Yep. We still get it. To top it all off, Jodi adds to the comments made by others with a few height-related self-deprecating lines of her own and they've really driven this point home. JODI IS A TALL GIRL. AND ALSO, SHE IS A SAD GIRL.
Despite the fixation on Jodi's height, the main message is not necessarily about her personal struggles. It's a broader message about accepting yourself the way you are. Yes, it is a cliche. But that doesn't necessarily make it any less important for viewers to hear - particularly adolescent viewers. At the very start of the film, Jodi is reading a book in the library and says to another student, "It's about Ignatius finding acceptance in a world that wants nothing to do with him". This is not subtle at all. At the 50 second mark of this film, before the opening dialogue was finished, I was internally screaming "JODI IS IGNATIUS!" But, here's the thing: most teenagers are probably also Ignatius, heck, many human beings can probably relate to the same feelings of "alienation" at some point in their lives. This is what the movie is truly about, not a "tall girl", but self-acceptance, no matter what your perceived abnormalities are. As Jodi puts it herself, towards the end of the film (sorry...spoiler alert), "I like me, and you should like you".
The performances in this film were interesting. The characters surrounding Jodi (particularly her family) were performed in a heightened style for comedic effect. Sometimes this was effective, sometimes it didn't quite work. At times when the film shifted gears into its more serious moments, and these heightened characters suddenly became more realistic, it tended to feel a bit out of place. The role of Jodi, comparative to other characters, was performed in a down to earth and more realistic fashion, perhaps for the purpose of highlighting her feelings of isolation even more. Perhaps just because.
The most interesting part of this film for me, were the references to other films. There were direct parodies of films like Miss Congeniality and Ghost, and there was a moment that was accidentally reminiscent of Strictly Ballroom, (which I personally quite enjoyed). But perhaps these moments were the most enjoyable because, even though they were quite obvious, they were still more subtle than the main message.
This film wasn't a masterpiece, but I can see its value. Yes, being tall isn't the worst issue to ever exist, but I genuinely believe that the message of this film is broader, Jodi is just the one driving it home. Will I watch Tall Girl again? No. But would I show it to my teenaged sister? Maybe the next time she comes to visit.