Falling Flat

Senior Year, a new movie on Netflix, contains a new take on the usual high school movie experince.


Kendahl Zimmerman

Netflix’s Senior Year features cheerleaders with green bows aplenty.

Making a crash on Netflix, Senior Year combines nostalgic comedy, tried tropes, and a unique twist to create an agonizingly average tribute to high school films; despite ambitious choices, the film falls flat like main character Stephanie Conway (played by Rebel Wilson and Angourie Rice), leaving audiences Clueless as to how to react.

The flick starts similarly to others in its genre—with a flashback of a desperate teenage Stephanie rejecting her best friends in a futile attempt at popularity. However, after the timeline returns to normal, viewers witness a now-senior Steph on top of the Harding High food chain, cheerleading squad, and most-popular jock, Blaine Balbo (played by Justin Hartley and Tyler Barnhardt).  The plot then builds up to Steph’s accident and resulting coma that last nearly twenty years before resetting with an aged Stephanie wakeing up the week of prom and continuing by following the cheer captain’s navigation of the modern world as well as her plight for Prom Queen.

Luckily, the film excels at bordering on complete satirization, opting to embrace the tropes and common story arc of high school comedies without going overboard. This cautious approach combined with the false start of the movie prevent it from becoming too predictable in the first half. Similarly, each character in the movie has a unique, defined personality that feels genuine in the beginning; both sets of actors breath life into the halls of Harding to make it feel like an actual, albeit slightly satirized, high school. The movie also succeeds in maintaining continuity and establishing irony from it. The ties back to the false start are clever and provide Stephanie with motivation to fight for prom queen. Likewise, Mary Holland’s performance as Martha Reiser was spectacular in that her delivery and tone matched Young Martha who was played by Molly Brown. The two absolutely stood out among the rest of the cast; they made a great team. Alicia Silverstone also stole the show despite only making a brief cameo with an excellent display of self aware humor and unique connection to the plot.

Unfortunately, all that glitters isn’t rhinestones. Despite attempting to subvert archetype-enforcing plotlines and succeeding for part of the film, Senior Year faceplants while flying into its second act. All realistic characterization flies away, forcing audiences to deal with 40+ minutes of overdramatic teenage lamentations surrounding true friendship. Additionally, certain telegraphed plotlines set up in the first act are completely abandoned for seemingly no reason. These disappointments paired with uncharacteristically one-off jokes for the movie like Steve Aoki’s cameo felt less humorous and simply lazy.

Overall, Senior Year is a fun movie with a sub par execution that could have benefitted from more consistency in its type of humor and less in terms of riding the nostalgia of late 90s teen comedies to its bitter end. The film’s subversion of tropes was engaging at first but devolved into pointless twists that failed to keep the plot feeling unique. So, if someone says it’s the best flipping film they’ve ever seen, they should watch Bring It On.