A Well-Meaning Moral for Tween Girls in Dear Lemon Lima


Thanks in part to her half-Eskimo heritage, brainy freshman Vanessa (Savanah Wiltfong) lands a scholarship at an exclusive public high school, where she finds herself unexpectedly ostracized by the blond, athletics-obsessed student body. “Why does God hate me so much?” she asks her diary, which she addresses to presumed imaginary friend Lemon Lima. She’s not just being paranoid: The school banishes the physically unfit to a dungeon weight room, where Vanessa bonds with her fellow outcasts. And there is a vague air of racism in the community. (A classmate’s father implies that “the native girl” will grow up to be some kind of freak: “It’s in the genes, and there’s no changing the chromosomes.”) Vanessa is reluctant to be defined by ethnicity, and refreshingly, Dear Lemon Lima works that reluctance into an anti-stereotyping argument. But the script gets mired in cliché, and the Sanrio-esque production design defines cute overload. Still, Lima’s “Be yourself, and you’ll eventually find your tribe” moral is so well-meaning that we might as well be generous and grade on a curve—it’s more appealing than anything Hollywood has recently offered the eight- to 13-year-old female demographic.