Wild Child tells the story of a wealthy, spoiled teenage girl named Poppy Moore who lives in Malibu, California and attends a boarding school in England. This film shows us how Poppy is first labeled as a fish out of water compared to her boarding school classmates, as she is a wild child, but eventually earns her roommates’ friendships and respect.
Although she lives in a wealthy mansion complete with an infinity pool in the popular sunny city Malibu, the viewers can easily tell that Poppy has no real friends. Her best friend Ruby, her boyfriend Roddy, and her other Malibu friends only like her because of her money and the privileges Poppy has. Like Poppy, Ruby is narcissistic, shallow and has a spoiled attitude, but ultimately is a deceptive, unfaithful, and disloyal friend to Poppy. This is shown in one scene where Poppy uses her roommate Kate’s cell phone to call Ruby when Poppy is stuck in England for one school semester. Instead of being supportive for her friend, Ruby hooks up with Roddy and talks trash about Poppy behind Poppy’s back. Another scene where the viewers see Ruby as disloyal is where Poppy tries to call Ruby after being ignored by her boarding school peers. Ruby reveals her true colors to Poppy after accidentally telling her that she doesn’t like Poppy at all and that she is seeing Roddy. At the end of the film, when Poppy and her classmates from England are relaxing in Malibu, she ignores Ruby’s phone calls, now aware that Ruby isn’t a good friend to her.
Poppy has suffered from a broken family; this is revealed to the viewers in a scene where she opens up to Kate while alone in her dorm room. Prior to the opening of the film, Poppy’s mother died in a car accident when Poppy was eleven years old. As a result, she is under the false protection of her father and is not happy when her father’s girlfriend is moving into her Malibu home because she thinks her father is replacing her dead mother with a new stepmother. Therefore, she carries out a wild prank to ruin all of her father’s girlfriend’s belongings, embracing her behavior as a wild child.
When the viewers first see the Matron enter the girls’ dorm room, the Matron can tell that Poppy is a stereotypical rich American girl, something she doesn’t like. After all, on Poppy’s first day at her new boarding school, she looks ridiculously overdressed compared to the other students. But we can actually see that Poppy isn’t the mean girl that everyone thinks she is. This is shown when Poppy dyes her hair from blonde to brown, revealing her natural brunette hair, as she looks identical to her mother. Poppy’s new hair color now fits in with the surroundings in England: the cold weather, the dark, rainy setting, and her memories of her mother.
The last piece of Poppy’s character transformation is when she discovers her talent for lacrosse and becomes the captain of the school’s lacrosse team, keeping her teammates in shape for the finals. Her father comes to her lacrosse game and is proud of Poppy for her role as the team captain. The interaction between father and daughter shows that Poppy’s kindness is seen on the inside, despite her reputation as a wild child.
The film shows not only a clear character arc of Poppy Moore through the changes in her looks and clothing styles, but also how Poppy goes to a boarding school in a foreign country like England. The viewers can see how each country is different in terms of the school student hierarchy. Poppy, who is used to her lifestyle as a rich American girl, faces the head girl of the school, Harriet, who labels her as an American, meaning she’s in the clique with the lowest ranking in an England boarding school. Poppy isn’t used to living in a dorm with different rules, as shown when she insults the Matron when the Matron confiscates the girls’ cell phones. When Poppy is going out shopping with friends, she is wearing an outfit that is appropriate for Malibu, but not for England, as pointed out by the Matron. To her humiliation, Harriet forces Poppy to wear a long-sleeved yellow jumper with the image of a dog.
Towards the end of the film, Poppy chooses to remain at her boarding school, as she discovers her deceased mother was once a student there as well. She maintains her Malibu image, but is no longer considered as a wild child now that she has true friends and a new relationship with Freddie.
Overall, the film does a great job showing Poppy’s character arc and transformation, but there are some key elements missing. The opening scene where Poppy is in Malibu is unclear as there are a lot of details missing. The extended scenes that show Poppy’s privileged life in Malibu are removed in the film’s final production, so there is no clear picture on how Ruby and Roddy take advantage of Poppy’s money. Another element missing from this film is that the boarding school Poppy is forced to attend is an all-girls’ boarding school. The film would be more interesting if the school was a public boarding school where there are boys’ dorms and girls’ dorms. That way, the viewers can see what it is like to attend a public school in a foreign country like England as every country has its own school policies.