Netflix original feature ‘Tall Girl’ provides tall list of shortcomings
Review by Nina Bartlomiejczyk — Copy Editor
“Tall Girl” is a new movie on Netflix detailing a bullied and diffident high school girl, Jodi Kreyman, played by Ava Michelle, who towers over the heads of her classmates at 6 feet 1 inch tall, developing into a confident and independent young woman. Unfortunately, this movie does not do justice for the tall or short, or even women in general.
While the expectation was to find fault in this movie simply for being a B-rate film and asserting that tall people are oppressed, and, while those expectations were wholly met, there was much more material in the movie to find oneself at odds with.
While the film poses as a coming-of-age movie in which the protagonist finds her best self in the end, the main issue with the movie is that it does not present her as independent or as overcoming the obstacles she faced.
Throughout the movie, Jack Dunkleman, played by Griffin Gluck, plays the all too common role of the boy who just cannot take a hint. While he does say she should “let her freak flag fly,” and embrace her true self, he thinks by doing this she would in turn have no problem in dating him. He badgers her every day, and clearly cannot take no for an answer. He also dissuades Kreyman’s crush, Stig Mohlin, played by Luke Eisler, from dating her and, since Stig is living at his house as an exchange student, he even physically drives himself like a wedge between them when they are together.
This would all be fine if the movie showed Kreyman becoming completely independent and confident in herself, not needing either problematic man, but after Mohlin slanders Kreyman at a party to keep up his popular appearance, Dunkleman is given a redemption arc in sticking up for her. While Jodi says there is no hope for Mohlin after he apologizes and it appears that, after she gives a speech at homecoming in heels, she is finally finding confidence in herself, she immediately begins to date Dunkleman in the socalled happy ending. Dunkleman’s entire character was based on having a crush on Kreyman.
He is given little more personality besides this. This does not make the viewer want him paired with her in the end, nor does the fact that he constantly pestered her about dating him. The movie suggests that, because Dunkleman stood up for her, Kreyman should reward him with her love.
The ‘happy ending’ of a man who cannot take no for an answer being redeemed for being a ‘nice guy’ has incredibly bad implications for the real world. Kreyman does not owe a relationship to Dunkleman, nor does any girl owe it to a guy like this to date him because he somehow proved himself. All in all, a better ending to show men who really act like this in real life that they are not owed a relationship, and to show girls they do not owe a relationship to anyone no matter how nice they are, is to have Kreyman go on to be independent and confident in her own right without the influence of either of these men.
This ending mirrors Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. The novel ends with Eyre returning to marry to her problematic previous love interest who is given a redemption arc after her relationship with another does not work out. The entire novel is based upon Eyre’s development as an independent, strong, and confident woman, but that entire concept turns in on itself when she accepts a life in marriage with a man she previously scorned, just as it does in “Tall Girl.”
Despite Netflix’s “Tall Girl” debuting in 2019, it has themes that trace back to Brontë’s novel, written in a Victorian era in which women had to get married for both social and economical reasons and thus the argument can be made that marriage is the only “happy ending.”
In a modern age of #MeToo, there is no reason for an ending romanticizing the redemption of a toxic relationship and settling for less to be presented as anything nearing acceptable.