Friday, May 13, 2022

Senior Year


Teenage Australian immigrant Stephanie Conway (Angourie Rice) has always struggled to fit in and makes a vow to be the most popular girl in high school. Her role model is ex-prom queen Deanna Russo who married the high school jock and lived her dream life at her dream house in the same suburb. Conway achieves her goals, becomes cheer captain, and clinches the hot guy as her boyfriend. However, the journey to her dreams is abruptly cut short after she falls in a coma following a cheerleading stunt gone wrong. She wakes up 20 years later and quickly realizes that life is no longer how she left it. Her best friends Martha (Mary Holland) and Seth (Sam Richardson) are now the high school principal and librarian, respectively. Her boyfriend Blaine (Justin Hartley) is married to her high school rival Tiffany (Zoë Chao). But perhaps the rudest awakening is finding out, after deciding to go back to finishing her senior year, how the dynamics of high school have changed after two decades.

This is your typical if-I-could-go-back to high school narrative, done and redone so many times over by Hollywood, but chooses to spring forward in time instead of going back as its main plot device. Conventional films of this subgenre usually rely on magic or body switcheroo that would allow the character to dwell in the past and try to change it. Senior Year does not have any of those fantasy elements and instead relies on an absurd yet medically sound excuse as the basis for its storyline.

Perhaps the reason why Senior Year hit me differently is because the main character and I happen to be both in senior year back in 2002. In short, the pop culture references, the slang expressions as well as the MTV era OST all facilitate a seamless trip down memory lane. Depending on how you view your overall high school experience, consider this as Rebel Wilson’s ode, or tribute, to high school life back in the early 2000’s. Otherwise, this is just another one of those second-chance storylines you’ve already seen so many times before.

What’s interesting is how the storyline unravels in a comparative way. Aside from the nostalgia trip, you also get a glimpse of how the high school experience is like nowadays. While the dynamics are pretty much the same, the sociopolitical climate has obviously changed. In a way, it feels like an educational experience for those who are curious as to what makes high school back then still similar to yet, at the same time, so different from what high school is nowadays.

Yes, I guess that is what I enjoyed the most. Back in 2002, social media was more of a fun distraction from daily life. Facebook was an alien concept yet to dominate in the years to come. MySpace, Multiply, and Friendster were the in thing during that era. Remember those Friendster testimonials and your favorite song welcoming netizens to your MySpace profile? Damn, we’re old. While the role and style of comedy are no different from what Wilson usually offers, she does serve as a fun anchor for the throwback experience.

Senior Year does give you some good moral lessons about high school and life in general but perhaps the reason why critics are roasting it is because it does not really stand out from the rest of the other films of the same genre that came before it. The technique is obviously rehashed, just reimagined and presented with a modernized lens. The best satisfaction you will get from this is the nostalgia trip if you are older or the tickling of your curiosity as to how the high school experience has evolved over time, if you are younger.

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