In Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, a high school band geek (played by Stranger Things breakout Shannon Purser) falls in love with a popular jock (Noah Centineo) via text messages and phone calls. Sounds like your typical teen romcom, right? There's only one problem: They've never met in person — and Sierra, lacking confidence in herself and in her body, desperately wants to keep it that way.
So when he starts to believe he's actually talking to queen bee Veronica (Kristine Froseth), Sierra plays along, teaming up with her tormenter to win over her crush. It's basically a modern-day retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, and MTV News has the exclusive first look at the trailer. (In case you need an English lit refresher, think of Edmond Rostand's 1897 tale of mistaken identity and unexpected romance as the original Catfish.)
For Purser, who steps into her first leading role in Sierra Burgess, the opportunity to play a teen girl struggling to define herself and her self-worth in an environment as unforgiving as high school — and on social media — was not only important, it was relatable. "It's ultimately the story of a girl who has to rethink how she perceives herself and others," the actress told MTV News. "I feel like lots of young people go through the same thing."
"I definitely relate to Sierra not feeling comfortable in her skin," she added. "I'm much better now at loving and accepting my body as it is, but I still have bad days. Sierra is also uncomfortable with who she is as a person, not just her body. She has to come face to face with her demons and figure out how how to move past them, which is a lesson I relearn all the time."
Written by Lindsey Beer, the film is also an exploration of girlhood, tenderly detailing the insecurities, vulnerabilities, and messy emotions that define adolescence. "I'm glad that a movie that focuses so heavily on the female high school experience is written by someone who has lived through it," Purser said.
As for what the 21-year-old starlet hopes people take away from the teen flick, it's simple: "Our physical appearances do not define us. Our bodies are beautiful — whether they conform to society's ridiculous standards or not — but they are not who we are."
"I hope that everyone, especially girls who are feeling pressured to conform, will see this movie and be reminded that it is far more important to have a beautiful heart than a supermodel's body," she concluded. "It is far more important to be kind than to have thousands of followers. I hope they see that being honest with yourself, and others, isn't always easy, but it's worth it."
And having a happy, healthy relationship with yourself is way more important than snagging the hot jock.
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser hits Netflix on September 7, 2018.