Netflix used to be synonymous with turning out mediocre films, sometimes that they’d made themselves but more commonly that they had picked up because no one else wanted to distribute them. When straight to streaming became the new straight to DVD, Netflix were at the absolute forefront of this. This has clearly changed recently though with the company putting out and producing a whole range of quality movies, from big hitters like The Power of the Dog and Mank to other treats like The Harder They Fall, Malcolm & Marie and Marriage Story.
With Senior Year though, it is like the last three years never happened. This, sadly, is not a very good film.
This was not a surprise. I’m not sure why I watched it really. Maybe it is because each December I publish my ten least favourite films of the year and currently the end of my list contains some really good films like Turning Red and The Northman. Perhaps I needed to get some trash in there to push the others up (sure enough this is now second from the bottom). In the end though I think I just wanted something undemanding, and lucky me that is absolutely what I got.
There are still a few things to really like here though, or rather I should say a few people, although unfortunately none of them are lead actor Rebel Wilson. She’s fine, if a little annoying, in this role but there are some real talents supporting her.
The story sees Wilson’s Stephanie waking up aged 37 from a twenty year coma, still with the mentality of a teen, and deciding to go back to high school and regain the popularity she once worked so hard to achieve. This brings a little bit of satire around modern culture, contemporary attitudes and new tech but not as much as you’d think. It’s mostly a chance for Wilson to be inappropriately sexual (for both a 37 and a 17 year old) and flip the bird a lot. On the plus side Sam Richardson plays her once adolescent friend and now school librarian and anyone who has seen Werewolves Within and The Tomorrow War will already know the effortless but modest charisma this actor brings to the screen. This guy seems to have nice, funny and endearing as born character traits and he is good to spend time with in anything.
Then, playing on the high school genre there is a brief but entertaining cameo from an actor made famous in similar film from the past that works surprisingly well. I won’t confirm who this is but given the dates and demographics involved it can only be Reece Witherspoon, Alicia Silverstone, Sarah Michelle Gellar or Mena Suvari.
The real star of the movie though is Angourie Rice as the young Stephanie. Despite only being 21, Rice has shone in range of shows and movies across the last six years. She is good in the recent Spider-Man films but is brilliant in The Nice Guys, Everyday, Black Mirror and Mare of Easttown and I’d have hoped this type of underwhelming comedy was beneath her now. Nonetheless she brings it again, managing to convince as a young Rebel Wilson really well and finding that balance of selfish and obnoxious yet likeable much better than her co-star. (They do appear alongside each other too, courtesy of the apparently obligatory cheesy dance montage over the credits.)
Even with Rice, Richardson and Witherspoon, Silverstone, Gellar or Suvari, I’m still not sure I’d recommend this. At the end of the year you’ll see that I liked it more than Michael Bay’s Ambulance, so there’s that but it’s not much. If you’re in the right mood Senior Year might carry you along with it though.
The Ripley Factor:
Sure this has confident, flawed, identifiable and independent women in it. There is some sex positivity too. If you want a film that properly deals with the young female experience in a high school setting though, then stay on this same streaming service and search out Moxie . It’s much more typical of Netflix’s recent celebrated output.