Greetings again from the darkness. Indie films are at a disadvantage on many fronts, not the least of which is budget. That usually limits the indie scene to personal, poignant stories of relationships and self-discovery. Quirky, yet believable characters are often the difference between ho-hum and worth-seeing. Writer Patrick Dewitt and Director Azazel Jacobs definitely provide some curious characters of interest in this Official Selection of Sundance Film Festival.
Jacob Wysocki portrays Terri, an overweight outcast who is often humiliated and bullied at high school. Terri seems to have given up on ever fitting in. The proof is in the pajamas that he has begun wearing to class every day. But as usual with “troubled” teens, there is more to the story. We see his home life which consists of constant care for his Uncle James, who is apparently suffering from dementia. We get no backstory on the missing parents, but it’s clear that Terri’s responsibility at home outweigh his concerns for a missing social life at school.
Enter Assistant Principal, Mr. Fitgerald. Played by John C Reilly, Mr. Fitzgerald takes a special interest in the ‘monsters and misfits’. The reason is pretty obvious … he was one himself. His goal, rather his life’s calling, is to encourage these kids to understand that life gets better and that NO ONE really has it figured out. We are just doing the best we can. Even this well-intentioned man struggles to maintain his relationship with his wife.
Terri’s world collides with a couple other students. Chad (Bridger Sadina) is so angry at the world that he pulls his hair right out from his scalp – and is quick with a cutting remark, though he clearly just seeks attention and love. Heather (Olivia Crociacchia) is saved from expulsion after a very generous move by Terri. Her world of popularity comes crashing down, but Terri is the presence that gets her through. Watching these characters interact with Mr. Fitzgerald emphasizes how much we all need someone to care … someone to believe in us.
The film moves at a pace realistic to life. That means it is very slow compared to most movies. The characters are allowed to develop, as are most of the scenes. Jacob Wysocki’s performance can be compared to Gabourey Sidibe in Precious. They are large youngsters who don’t use their size to comedic effect. Instead, they both display humanity and real emotions in a less-than-perfect world. Uncle James is played very well by Creed Bratton (“The Office”). If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Bratton, he is not only a fine actor, but also was a member of the late 60’s/early 70’s band The Grass Roots. He continues to compose music to this day.
Certainly not a movie for everyone, but if you enjoy intimate stories about people just trying to get through life … no special effects, explosions or asinine punchlines … then Terri is worth a look.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy attention to detail afforded by indie film story-telling OR you are intrigued by the similarities to Precious (only not as harsh or intense)
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you believe summer time movies should be light-hearted and filled with crashes, booms and robots/superheroes
Watch the trailer: