A rather sobering meme made its way across social media last year, shocking all Gen Xers with the words, “It’s 2021. We are closer to 2040 than to 2000.” And now here we are in 2022, even nearer to 2040! As difficult as it may be to get our heads around, the early aughts are a bygone era. That notion is fully evident in Netflix’s new “Senior Year,” a bubbly rom-com that, while set in the present day, is riddled with wistful nods to TRL, butterfly clips and all-things 2000.
Directed by Alex Hardcastle, the film sees Harding High Class of 2002 cheer captain Stephanie Conway (Angourie Rice) fall into a coma less than a month before graduation due to a sabotaged cheerleading stunt facilitated by her arch-enemy/prom queen rival, Tiffany Blanchette (Ana Yi Puig). When an adult Stephanie (played by a delightful Rebel Wilson) finally awakens 20 years later, she does what any 17-year-old senior trapped in a 37-year-old body would! She goes back to high school to finish out her final year and belatedly win that much-coveted prom queen title and crown!
It’s a silly premise, to be sure, but thanks to a witty script, stellar performances and a kicking retro soundtrack, “Senior Year” is sweet, engrossing and endearingly nostalgic. The movie even features a rousing re-creation of Britney Spears’ 1999 “(You Drive Me) Crazy” music video, complete with hot pink neon signage and Wilson decked out in a fabulous green sparkly number, blond locks flowing.
Though the flick’s Rotten Tomatoes scores leave quite a bit to be desired, judging by Netflix’s metrics, audiences are finding “Senior Year” the “bomb diggity” as it has remained on the streamer’s Top Ten list since being released two weeks ago.
Set in the fictional town of Loganville, Maryland, the movie was filmed in its entirety in Atlanta, Georgia and its environs, with the production making spectacular use of the city’s fabulous real estate. Indeed, while Wilson (who also serves as a producer) shines in her role, “Senior Year’s” true stars are the four utterly charming residences that figure at its center!
Showcased most prominently is the one-story bungalow Stephanie and her father, Jim Conway (Chris Parnell, aka the eccentric Dr. Spaceman from “30 Rock”), call home throughout the film. Featuring two bedrooms and two baths in 1,536 square feet, the mint green residence can be found at 646 Killian St. SE in Grant Park, a quaint neighborhood named in honor of the city’s first public park, which sits at its center.
According to the Atlanta History Center, the community is the “largest historic district in the city” and “is characterized by its architecture – dramatic Victorian facades, modified Queen Anne frame houses, looming turrets, gingerbread porch railings, 20th-century bungalows, and diminutive cottages.” Brimming with character, Grant Park certainly has curb appeal on lock, its winding streets lined on each side by attractive residence after attractive residence, many boasting address placards fashioned after a sunburst. The bright yellow signs are prevalent throughout “Senior Year,” hanging from Stephanie’s front porch and the porches of the surrounding homes visible in the background. As explained on the Neighborhood Association’s website, “The sunburst is a symbol of the restoration and cohesion of the neighborhood and takes its design from similar exterior architectural decorative patterns found on many of the homes in Grant Park.”
Production designer David Sandefur did not have to do much to get the 1920 dwelling ready for its close-up as the Conway residence. Aside from bringing in some additional foliage, the place was pretty much left in its natural state for its onscreen role.
Stephanie’s dream house, where Harding High’s 1995 cheer captain/prom queen, the “boy-band rich” Deanna Russo (Alicia Silverstone), lives her seemingly perfect life with her seemingly perfect husband, can be found, not surprisingly, in upscale Haynes Manor. Teeming with “gracefully curving roads and picture-perfect architecture,” the area is so exclusive that the official website warns potential buyers, “Your money will not go quite as far in this sought-after neighborhood. If you’re looking for all the bells and whistles under $1 million, look elsewhere.”
Appropriately aspirational, Deanna’s rambling estate sits atop a serene 0.64-acre bluff at 2611 Dellwood Dr. NW. Erected by MiRome Construction, the transitional-style masterpiece features five bedrooms and three baths in an impressive 6,311 square feet. A newer build, the residence was completed in 2016 and replaced a much smaller property that was razed by the current owners shortly after they purchased it two years earlier.
Deeming the pad “the most beautiful house in Maryland,” it is there that Stephanie first heads after awakening from her coma, only to discover that her high school boyfriend, Blaine Balbo (Justin Hartley), is now residing there with a grown-up Tiffany (Zoë Chao), essentially living out the dream life she had always imagined for herself with her biggest adversary.
The home belonging to Stephanie’s best friend, Harding High principal Martha Reiser (Mary Holland), is yet another charmer! Located at 654 Cumberland Rd. NE in the Morningside-Lenox Park area, the bungalow looks like something straight out of a Craftsman design magazine!
Featuring three bedrooms and one bath in 1,886 square feet, the 1926 home has not changed hands in over two decades, last selling in 1998, so interior details are nil. But according to old newspaper reports, living areas include a breakfast room, a formal dining room and a living room with a fireplace, all lined by the original parquet flooring.
While I cannot confirm it, I believe the residence may have been the work of Leila Ross Wilburn, one of Georgia’s first female architects, who opened her own firm in 1909. At the very least, the dwelling was likely based upon one of her designs, which are prevalent throughout the Peach State. Wikipedia explains, “Rather than catering to wealthy clients, Wilburn marketed her residential designs to the middle class through a series of plan books. This was a propitious choice as Atlanta’s suburbs were expanding . . . Thanks to her location in the Peters Building, she developed close ties with contractors, builders, and developers, who bought her plan books and her plans and built her houses by the hundreds. Her plan books allowed middle-class buyers to benefit from her expertise without having to pay the fees of a professional architect.”
Though I’ve found no documentation to back up my hunch, Martha’s house, with its covered off-center porch, decorative corbels and brickwork, is almost a direct match to the residence located at 826 Penn Ave. NE in Midtown, which was built by Wilburn in 1920.
Finally, Martha’s family’s lakehouse, which her grandfather “built with his bare hands” and which Stephanie commandeers for a raucous after-prom party at the end of the film, can be found at 3231 Cardinal Lake Dr. NW in Duluth, about 30 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. Though constructed in 1973, the residence boasts some decidedly midcentury-esque details and, as such, makes for the quintessential retro movie party pad and was, therefore, a shoo-in for use in “Senior Year.”
Shown from different angles above, the sprawling dwelling features massive upper and lower level decks that run the entire rear of the home, a private dock and 205 feet of frontage overlooking picturesque Cardinal Lake. Unfortunately, the three-bedroom, three-bath, 3,507-square-foot structure, which sits on a 0.35-acre lot, last changed hands nearly two decades ago in 2004, so additional detailing is slim. But it sure is a stunner!
If “Senior Year” is any indication, Atlanta is overflowing with screen-ready residences of every architectural style. It is no wonder runaway production has been so prevalent in the area in recent years! The city sure has some fabulous real estate to showcase!
(Please remember these are all private homes. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the properties in any way.)