Written by Niamh Brook
Rebel Wilson’s latest Netflix comedy follows 37-year-old fish out of water Stephenie after she wakes up from a 20-year coma. But was it worth waking up for or should I go back to sleep?
Senior Year follows Stephenie Conway (Angourie Rice) in her senior year of high school in 2002. A girl obsessed with her image after years of bullying, Stephenie dedicated her life to reaching the top of the food chain. And that she did, with the cheer captain title and sport-star boyfriend both under her belt, all she had left was her prom queen crown. But after a ‘horrific’ cheer accident, we next meet Stephanie (now Rebel Wilson) when she wakes up from a 20-year coma.
The premise of Senior Year is simple, your typical fish out of water comedy with a 30 something Wilson acting like a teenage girl from 2002 adjusting to the new ‘woke’ world we live in. ‘Woke’ is definitely a key theme in Senior Year however the laughs are cheap and dialogue typically feels like a shallow string of words as opposed to anything anyone remotely human would say. Few moments in the film could actually be pinned as funny, as we mainly watch Wilson ad-lib and tell painfully unfunny jokes for the film's two hour run time.
Now, I’m a 23-year-old from England, so I frankly have no idea what it’s like to be in a modern-day American high school. However, from what I can gather, the utopia of high school equality depicted in the film is just unrealistic and frankly a strange thing to play for laughs. The film can’t quite seem to decide what it believes in, whether or not it should make fun of its progressiveness or support it. Whilst it's written very OTT, a lot of what the students and teachers of the school discuss is frankly not that silly and the film’s odd tone just made it all feel very odd.
We’ve seen adults play children in other films e.g the recent Jumanji films, however, at many points throughout the film, Senior Year frankly made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Stephanie is canonically described as a 17-year-old in a 37-year-old’s body. However her now fully developed, older classmates continually try it on with her. It feels wrong and nothing is ever mentioned about this strange plot hole. Also, the plot continually encourages the visibly adult to sexualise children whilst condemning her for her lack of responsibility partying with them.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a comedy as much as the next person, but from the first 20 minutes I knew Senior Year was not going to be for me. Whilst at times it managed to exude a few nose exhales here and there. For me, the film is painfully unfunny and frankly, extremely cringe. I had to watch the film in three separate stints to get through its overlong run-time as I simply couldn’t cope with how painfully hard it was trying.
Had the filmmakers followed a more conventional narrative, and simply followed the younger Steph in 2002 throughout (would that make it a period piece now?), maybe we could have had a less cringe, more compelling story that I could watch in one sitting. Overall, Senior Year was not for me and I almost certainly will never find myself compelled to watch it again. At best, it could be good as some background noise when I next have the girls round for a bottle of wine, simply for the 00’s nostalgia and strangely, the dance sequences.