Review by Joseph Fayed
More than three years after production wrapped, Sick Girl starring Nina Dobrev has finally been released. Picked up for distribution by Lionsgate, the quality of humor and lack of comedic timing or decent performances make it surprising to learn this wasn't a shelved Netflix original film.
The film follows Wren Pepper (Nina Dobrev), who feels like she is growing apart from her best friends. In the midst of a personal crisis, she lies to her friends, telling them that she has cancer. Wren's friends decide they need to step up their support of the newly "sick" Wren, and her lie starts to spiral out of control from there.
This comedy about a little white lie would have been elevated if it was a satire on cancer and the gatekeeping — or lies in Wren's case — around it. Instead, what we get is the misadventures of Wren. While Wren tries to carry on with her life, she still acts as normal as possible. There is no tonal shift in her personality, which wasn't very interesting to begin with, mind you. The biggest reactionary moments feature Wren's tight-knit friend group. Ironically, her friends aren't too discernible from each other. But that is what makes Wren stand out from the shadow of being a plain protagonist.
While most of the film follows Wren carrying on with her lie, the supporting cast, who are meant to bear the weight of Wren's journey along with her, give bad performances too. The characters are so one-dimensional you learn next to nothing about the personal stakes this had on them. Beyond their friendship to Wren, their character arcs aren't expanded. Wren being a selfish individual who would tell such a lie should give the script leeway into exploring how her friendships reached the crossroads they did in the first place, and why they continue to have such an emotional bond towards her. The acting chops of the cast also feel bland, and their line delivery — even during humorous moments — felt off. Comedic timing is an underappreciated skill that none of the actors had to carry this film.
Sick Girl doesn't have an interesting enough protagonist to make up such a bold lie. It is a missed opportunity to explore the inner workings of someone who fools everyone around her, or how a community deals with a sensitive issue like cancer. It's not particularly funny, either, as its humor feels recycled from a million comedies in the past. Maybe with a better cast and crew, this could have been a dark satire that didn't hold back in how ridiculous those in a rather serious situation tend to act. Sadly, all hopes for that are just wishful thinking for a film that feels like it would've been one of the top 10 movies on Netflix for a week before it's collectively forgotten.
Sick Girl hits theaters and VOD on October 20.