High school: the one place where jocks, preps, rebels and nerds coexist to experience some of their lowest and highest points in life. From prom to post-secondary applications, senior year is arguably the most important year. While many say the final year is the cherry on top of a fun-filled teenage experience, others describe it as the final moments before the release from the living hell that is school. Netflix original, Senior Year, follows the journey of a student who’s been in high school for nearly 25 years.
Directed by Alex Hardcastle and starring a diverse, mainly-female lead cast including Angourie Rice, Zoë Chao, Mary Holland and Jade Bender, this 2022 comedy seems to be set up for fame. The film follows Stephanie Conway, an Australian immigrant navigating high-school in America. She works her way up from dorky and unpopular to Queen B and cheer captain, until a failed cheer stunt lands her in a coma. 20 years later, she wakes up to her middle-aged body while still possessing the mind of her 17-year-old self. Played by Rebel Wilson, the fully-grown Stephanie adjusts to her new self while going back to finish high school and reclaim her it-girl reputation.
Senior Year fails to be an enjoyable movie to watch, as proven by the 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and numerous criticisms. Audiences have come to a collective agreement that Senior Year is not funny, nor is it original. The film is a way to kill time, rather than a cinematographic work of art.
A movie produced in 2 months is likely to be underdeveloped; Senior Year is no exception. The lack of detail is obvious to viewers. The plot seems unoriginal and stolen, the target audience is unclear, the jokes are unassuming, the roles are cringy, the characters are flat and underdeveloped…the list goes on.
At first glance, the plot seems fun and interesting. In execution, this film is unsuccessful in producing something unique. The storyline is a rewrite of the “I’m a teenager in an adult body” idea that has been in numerous movies such as: 17 again, Freaky Friday or Peggy Sue Gets Married. This isn’t Senior Year’s only reuse; this trope is combined with the classic back-to-school concept. There are no new ideas, instead old ones were blended together. The combination was made in hopes of creating something different, instead the plot comes across as neglected. After the introduction to the movie’s plot, there aren’t any plot-twists or surprising events. As an adult, Wilson’s character is an outcast among the student population. She begins to adapt to modern society until the eventual realization that being her true self is the only route to happiness. The predictability of the film bores the audience; there is no desire to watch the full movie when major plot points and outcomes are obvious.
This “comedy” seems to be targeted towards a younger audience, however, it is strongly advised to keep this movie away from children. It is rated R for reasons such as: an inexplicable number of sexual jokes and actions, vulgar language and underage substance use. Sexual jokes are just one of the multiple types of failed comedy in this movie. Other moments in the movie were also unentertaining, such as Stephanie bragging about being cheer captain to her nurse as soon as she wakes up from her coma or Stephanie showing off her out-of-trend outfit. Apart from a few measly attempts, there is no real effort to add humour into this movie, which raises the question of why it has been dubbed a comedy.
Upon Stephanie’s re-entrance into high school, she is surrounded by teenagers who are showcased as cringy social activists trying to change the world while sipping on soy milk lattes and speaking in text acronyms. It is hard to imagine how this young and talented cast underwent the struggle to play these squirm-worthy and embryonic characters, many of whom seem to exist only to support the main character.
In spite of numerous complaints, there are valuable lessons to be learnt in Senior Year. The film is built around the idea of this foreign Australian girl who wants to fit in and seem cool to others. Throughout the movie we see her character grow, as she learns to love and embrace her true self, especially as a middle-aged adult. Senior Year offers to start a conversation about the amount of people trying to run away from their age and towards their past instead. The film also touches on the impact of striving for perfection. The movie shows that one of the most mental-health-friendly things to do is accept that life is full of mistakes. Letting go of the past, truly loving yourself and accepting imperfection are crucial steps to a healthy well-being; Senior Year explains this through the comparisons of actions, beliefs and values between past, teenage Stephanie and current, adult Stephanie.
Another positive to be noted is the wardrobe. As the lead, Stephanie Conway transitions through different stages in life visualized in her. When adult Conway is still stuck on her teenage ambitions, she sports her old high school cheer uniform and more of an overall 90s style. These outfits are a representation of Stephanie’s desperate grasp on her past. When she begins to accept and mature into adulthood, audiences notice the shift to “adult” clothing. The harmony between roles and clothing allow for the audience to be able to see a physical change, making it easier to recognize the shift in a character’s personality and beliefs.
This easy-to-digest film has a light atmosphere, with hints of feel-good life lessons. It is safe to say the movie isn’t a head-scratcher or masterpiece of cinema. Simply put, Senior Year is a fun pick when looking for a simple rom-com or something to pass the time.
Senior Year is available for watch on Netflix.