Easy A

"Easy A" star, Emma Stone. 

As the 2010s draw to a close (yes, really), the time has finally arrived for us to sit back and reminisce about the many wonders this decade brought us. For the past decade movie-goers have seen popular teen movies such as 2010’s “Easy A” and 2019’s “Tall Girl” showcasing strong and empowering female leads.  Here are some that must be seen before the decade is over and some that are better off unwatched.

“Easy A” (2010)

Due to its release date, its style and the chick-flick hiatus that followed it, “Easy A” feels more like a farewell to the 2000s teen movie heyday than an introduction to 2010s chick flicks. Though watching it may be a nostalgic experience, “Easy A” also remains surprisingly timeless, with themes and lessons that still hold up to this day. 

The fact that it didn’t attempt to bombard its audience with trends of the time helped it age flawlessly, and almost a decade after its release, it doesn’t feel outdated. Instead, it chose to relate to its teen audience through sheer humor, honesty and unpretentiousness. It also didn’t rely on cliched high school archetypes in order to get its point across. Each character, including the stereotype-breaking ultra-Christian mean girl, is an individual rather than a series of tropes and each of them brings something to the table. The result was such a success that none of the films that followed it could live up to the example it set. 

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018)

The movie that is responsible for bringing forth the late 2010’s chick-flick revival (though, admittedly, along with “The Kissing Booth”) is “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.”  While the plot may not be revolutionary, its distinct, ambitious visual style and voice make it stand out among other chick-flicks of our time. The writers and cast work together to create palpable chemistry between the characters, making the relationships, both romantic or otherwise, the highlight of the movie. While other Netflix romcoms have tried and failed to innovate within the genre, TATBILB sticks to its well-known formula, but it does so in a way that doesn’t feel tired or derivative. It is therefore no surprise that it has become one of the most-well known teen movies of the past 10 years. Yes, it is a simple, feel-good story; yet, its details help it earn a high place on this list. 

“The DUFF” (2015)

“The DUFF” is a fine movie. It’s funny, it’s charming and the characters are likeable. I also get the feeling that I’m the only one who’s thought about it since…well,  2015. Though it is impossible to dislike a movie starring Mae Whitman, it seems to have been quickly forgotten and condemned to chick-flick purgatory. 

That is probably because it was in no way groundbreaking, despite how badly it wanted to be. Sure, it broke the mold of 90s makeover chick-flicks by having main character Bianca ultimately realize that she must embrace who she is instead of trying to change herself for a guy. However, by the time it came out, this lesson might have already seemed obvious, and it would have been a lot more outrageous to not have it break that mold. This isn’t to say that “The DUFF” took the wrong route, but simply that diverging from a so obviously outdated formula wasn’t enough to make it memorable. 

The most surprising thing about “The DUFF” was that it came out after a 5-year chick-flick hiatus. At the end of the day, it didn’t bring forth a revival of the genre but remained a stop along the way. 

“Sierra Burgess Is A Loser” (2018)

There are some similarities between “Tall Girl” and “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser.” They both feature egocentric protagonists that wallow in self-pity, a token black best friend who deserves better and a similar message of body acceptance.

However, “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser” ranks higher because it at least has the decency to deal with an issue that actually exists. Nevertheless, after the titular Sierra Burgess catfishes her love interest Jamey and humiliates and neglects her friends, it is difficult to root for her and you are left wondering whether she faced any real consequences at all. She sees little growth as a character; her grand apologetic gesture amounts to a pity party rather than an apology, a request to be absolved of her crimes just because she, unlike other teenagers, has problems. 

The writers also fail at creating any chemistry between Sierra and Jamey, as evidenced by the fact that for the better part of the movie, I believed that Sierra would end up with Veronica, or that Veronica would end up with Jamey. At least that might have taught Sierra that being insecure doesn’t come with a license to be an awful human being. 

“The Kissing Booth” (2018)

The only thing you need to know about “The Kissing Booth” is that, even if no one had told you that it’s based on a Wattpad story, you’d know. Its overly long, poorly structured plot will let you vividly experience reading self-published online novels about toxic (yet ardent) romances, in case you missed out on being 14. 

The movie is about Elle and the series of red flags displayed by almost every guy in her vicinity. There is controlling and violent Noah, his controlling and possessive brother Lee, as well as sleazy Tuppen, all of whom the teenage audience is supposed to ultimately like. Seeing it for the first time at 19 and knowing that it was a hit with middle school girls awoke in me a maternal instinct I didn’t know existed.

Beyond its worrying message, “The Kissing Booth” is simply bad. From its pacing to its acting, it fails to even qualify as a guilty pleasure.

“Tall Girl” (2019)

The latest Netflix chick flick provides us with the tall girl advocacy nobody asked for. It follows the story of Jodi, a 6’1” teenager living in a fictitious world where the average height is 4’, or so the movie would lead us to believe.

In order to fabricate a problem that would have little resonance on anyone living in reality, the “Tall Girl” Cinematic Universe inflates the small inconveniences of tall-girlhood to the point of hilarity. Jodi’s pocket-sized classmates hold their breath waiting for their chance to viciously attack Jodi by asking her “how the weather is up there,” and her best friend Fareeda, whose struggles as a black woman surely don’t hold a candle to Jodi’s, has comforting Jodi as her sole life goal.

The entire school seems to strangely rotate around Jodi, the only tall person they’ve ever seen. At homecoming,when an Austin Powers-esque Jodi goes on stage for no good reason and proclaims that she is now okay with her height, the munchkins of the TGCU applaud, now okay with it too. In a way, they may be better off in a world where the only thing anyone is ever (kind of) discriminated against is height. 

With its strange worldbuilding, its self-absorbed and eternally self-pitying protagonist and its unnecessary sermon, “Tall Girl” has established its place as the worst chick-flick of the decade. Its only saving grace is the star power of the dad from the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies (oh, and Angela from “The Office” is there too).

While the quantity of chick-flicks of the 2010s could not match that of the previous two decades, a couple of them match them in quality. The reawakening the genre has seen since last year is also a promising glimpse at what’s to come. Hopefully the 2020s will provide us with a much bigger selection of movies to watch when you just want to turn your brain off for a bit. For now, the movies on this list allow us to look at our own generation from the outside, at our trends and our values, acting as a time capsule of our teens to look back on in the future.

 

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