‘Senior Year’ movie review: Rebel Wilson struggles to save Netflix high school comfort flick

Even though all the right ingredients have been put together, any attempt at a piece of sugar is nullified by an act that is more confused than its protagonist.

Even though all the right ingredients have been put together, any attempt at a piece of sugar is nullified by an act that is more confused than its protagonist.

Netflix latest movie Senior year try to pay homage to the genre-defining high school-rom-coms of the 21st century. Unfortunately, this tribute does little justice to its predecessors and just like its protagonist Stephanie Conway, the film gets lost in its struggle to juggle the present and the past.

A fish out of water, Stephanie Conway (Angourie Rice) is a heroine we would have loved to feel sorry for. After moving to America from Australia, a teenager Stephanie, with the help of reliable newspaper articles and a bulletin board to visualize her goals, quickly steps up to the top of the high school social order. All of this rages when a particularly serious accident, during her cheerleading routine, leaves her in a coma … just before the prom.

When she skips 20 years, a 37-year-old Stephanie (now played by Rebel Wilson) miraculously wakes up from the coma and discovers that while she has aged physically, “she is still mentally 17”. She then begins her quest to return to high school, graduate and win the title of ball queen.

However, the clock has been reset, and as a middle-aged woman, Stephanie is no longer Queen B. A second makeover follows as she now navigates the new age of social media-driven popularity. Throughout this process, she is supported by her father (Chris Parnell), and her childhood friends, Martha (Mary Holland) and Seth (Sam Richardson), who now work at the school.

Featuring colorful visual aesthetics and a soundtrack featuring Avril Lavigne, Mandy Moore and Fort Minor, Senior year begins as a curious time capsule that we have stumbled upon over 20 years later. For a moment, it even encourages the abolition of mistrust.

But cracks begin to appear as the film’s plot falls victim to the expected regret of the “awake” Gen Z.

Movies like 13 on the way to 30 who has followed a similar premise found the comedy in detail, with Jennifer Garner stumbling around her apartment. In contrast, Senior year, rushes past many such moments that could have given it the ease it needed to stay afloat. Stephanie turns out to be confused by the concept of selfies and social media, but barely gets an explanation before she herself becomes an influencer.

Senior year

Director: Alex Hardcastle

Actors: Rebel Wilson, Justin Hartley, Sam Richardson, Mary Holland, Chris Parnell, Zoë Chao and others

Duration: 1 hour 51 minutes

Plot: After a cheerleading accident, a high school student falls into a coma and wakes up 20 years later, determined to graduate and become the ball queen

Instead, director Alex Hardcastle makes societal change a contentious issue for Stephanie. Today’s students at Hardinggymnasiet appear as caricatures written by a bitter adult. They talk in lengthy dialogues about social issues, practice cheering routines about climate change and worry about being filmed because “the media will use it to try to discredit” them when they run for president later.

The modern generation is proving to be superficial in its concern for causes and obsessed with how they are perceived digitally. They are also routinely shocked by Stephanie’s audacity, whose whole story turns into “an adult who shows these children just having a little fun”.

Soon, Senior year deviates far from a trip down memory lane and becomes a projection of millennial frustration over a rapidly changing world. It becomes less like reminding of simpler times and becomes an aggressive competition about which generation was right. Stephanie’s annoyance with her cartoon-awakened classmates becomes less delightful as the film progresses.

Predictably, the film gives way to a nice and nice ending. All conflicts are resolved after Stephanie makes an Instagram live to give a heartfelt speech and hugs it out with Martha at the graduation ceremony, before the whole school breaks out into one last dance routine.

Spoiler alert: One of the film’s best moments is a surprise comedy by Alicia Silverstone playing Deanna Russo – a former Harding High student – who was crowned ball queen and lived a “perfect life” according to Stephanie.

On the surface, Senior year seems to have all the features of a nostalgic consolation film, with dialogues that seem to have been picked directly from a motivating Instagram page, and explicitly written lessons that fame is fleeting, one has to let go of one’s past to discover their real self … you understand the core. But every attempt at a saccharine piece of media is thwarted by an act that is more confused than its protagonist.

Senior Year is currently being streamed on Netflix

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