Written by: Ellen Tremiti, Special to CC2K
Fanboy Comics Contributor Ellen Tremiti shares her thoughts on another one of the many films she previewed at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Terri is a story about an overweight fifteen-year-old of the same name (played by Jacob Wysocki) who doesn’t fit in at school. That may sound like many other teen coming-of-age films—Super Bad comes to mind—but there are key differences between Terri and other movies about not-so-attractive loners on the outskirts of social acceptance. The differences are in the writing, style, and tone of this film. Without bells and whistles, Terri, directed by Azazel Jacobs, is remarkably realistic and honest in its portrayal of teenage life.
Terri cares for his confused and ailing Uncle James (played by The Office’s Creed Bratton), and, with no other mentor figures present, his transition from childhood to manhood is going shakily at best. He wears pajamas to school, and he doesn’t have any strong friendships. A love life is also nonexistent. Despite his naïveté in some respects, his relationship with his uncle forces Terri to step up and act as caretaker for his household, which he does without a second thought.
Terri’s home life stress causes him to be late to school, and he finds himself before the principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), quite often. The two form an awkward, hard-to-pin-down bond that, ultimately, helps them both for the better. Fitzgerald is a little bit creepy, a little bit hilarious, and a little bit lovable. Terri has trouble understanding his relationship with Fitzgerald, but that confusion is all part of the growing up process: learning that adults really don’t have much more figured out than the kids they teach. Fitzgerald also mentors a greasy teen named Chad (Bridger Zadina) who has an unsettling habit of pulling out his hair. Chad and Terri experiment with friendship, but their differing maturity levels end up impacting the bond they create.
Fitzgerald and Chad act more as spring boards for Terri, characters he can try confiding in and opening up to, but neither of them really push him out of his comfort zone. Enter the cute, blonde, popular girl, Heather Miles (Olivia Crocicchia, Rescue Me). Heather succumbs to peer pressure when she allows her pseudo-boyfriend to touch her inappropriately during a class that she shares with Terri, who witnesses the event. Heather is caught by the teacher and, thus, humiliated. Her status as popular girl instantly plummets; as is expected with high school cattiness, she is branded gross and slutty while her male counterpart is largely forgotten. Heather’s matter-of-fact predicament and the lack of melodrama surrounding her circumstance make her a sympathetic character. She honestly appreciates Terri, the one person who does not judge her for what happened.
The story comes to a restrained climax, but that is what makes the film so realistic. Terri is not beaten up, slushies are not dropped on him, he does not morph into the most popular kid in school, he may not even get the girl, and an awkward hangout turns into the turning point of the film. How much more realistic can a movie about teens get? The character arcs are up to interpretation, but Terri does change and grow as a person by the end. Terri is a well done character study that may leave some viewers wanting more, but with great performances and an authentic storyline, it’s hard to see why.
Ellen Tremiti is a Contributor for Fanboy Comics, an independent comic book publishing company based in Los Angeles, CA. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Ellen and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at FanboyComics.net or sign up for the e-newsletter, The Fanboy Scoop, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.