Terri

26 Jul

Title: Terri
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Patrick DeWitt, from a story by himself and Azazel Jacobs
Starring: 
John C. Reilly, Jacob Wysocki, Bridger Zadina, Creed Bratton, Olivia Crocicchia, Melanie Abramoff, Jenna Gavigan
MPAA Rating: 
R, sexual content, language and some drug and alcohol use – all involving teens
Runtime: 
105 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
86%

 

What a sensational little surprise Terri turned out to be. I seriously cannot say enough about how much I loved this film, especially because I went into it knowing very little about it, and even moreso because I only knew the briefest and vaguest of plot outlines: “It’s about a fat kid who gets bullied around at school and then this offbeat professor strikes a connection with him”, I was told, and yes, it’s about that, like so many movies before it have been, but it’s also so much more. And the reason why Terri is so much more than your usual film about a guy that doesn’t fit in at his school and gets a hard time because of it is Jacob Wysocki. This is Mr. Wysocki’s feature-length film debut, after appearing in a supporting capacity on ABC Family’s cancelled Huge, and boy does he make the most out of it, he feels incredibly natural as Terri, embedding in him gentle and smart traits that make him an easy candidate for any sort of Breakout Star of the Year award.

The film takes place during a few weeks in Terri’s life during which he goes through some important moments, you get to know that his parents aren’t really in the picture, and instead get to meet the uncle he has been living with, played by The Office‘s Creed Bratton, a man who is now becoming senile and so we see Terri caring of him, in the most subtle and perfect of ways as played out by Mr. Wysocki. We also get to meet Assistant Principal Fitzgerald, the character played by John C. Reilly, who calls Terri in after he starts cutting too many classes, and a relationship between the two begins to blossom, as Fitzgerald has a few lessons of his own life to impart on Terri. And how director Azazel Jacobs chooses to build this relationship, ever so subtly and carefully, is one of the pleasures of watching Terri, there’s not one step that shouldn’t have been taken, not one step that was taken too fast, it’s just seriously well done.

And that’s really the greatest thing I can say about Terri, and it truly is something great, the fact that it’s just told in the most perfect of ways, feeling perfectly human all along, it never once feels like its pretentiously taking its time prodding at a theme, nor does it seem like its rushing through one either, it takes just the right amount of time doing its thing, and it’s all the much better for it, the level of absorption this film achieves because of that is truly a thing to behold. It’s that incredible balance of sympathy and human connection that sets Terri apart from many films with familiar themes and gets you really thinking about it.

The film isn’t all about Terri and his uncle and Assistant Principal Fitzgerald. We also meet two other kids, Chad and Heather. Chad is another kid Fitzgerald has to deal with, another outcast, problem child, call him what you might. And Heather is this pretty little girl who Terri has some very tender moments with. And what’s terrific is that even though on paper these characters, and one particular situation in which all three kids are involved that includes pills and booze, might all sound very commonplace in these sort of films, but they’re nothing like what you might think you’ve seen in other movies, they’re all incredibly original creations, not tied down by any sort of conventions you might imagine, just wonderfully observed by Mr. Jacobs who gives his actors and characters as much room as they desire to be their own entities.

Watch Terri, tell pretty much everyone you know to watch Terri, you’ll be surprised by just how neat this little film can be. From the poster and trailer you might gather that it’ll be a quirky indie film with some fine performances by terrific character actors and a breakout turn by Mr. Wysocki, and yes, it’s all that, and that’s very good, but Terri finds this magical way to ground its quirkiness in some very real emotions, in some very human revelations and subtle amazing moments. And in Mr. Wysocki it found the perfect unknown actor to convey such quiet confidence in the role that it was infectious to watch, and the scenes between himself and Mr. Reilly, who’s one of the most versatile actors alive, are truly a thing of awe, watching an unknown go head-to-head with such a masterful Oscar-nominated actor in moments that call for actual communication between characters, a thing easier said than done in today’s film world, it’s just beautiful stuff.

And that’s really what Terri is all about, character exploration, all done really well by Mr. Jacobs, a director I haven’t seen anything else from, but who knows just how much leeway to give his actors to explore their characters. And then you have these performances, which I just have to talk about yet again, Mr. Bratton, who you know from his quiet but hilarious job in The Office is very touching here, and Mr. Reilly shows why he’s amongst the very best at that wonderful brand of sad comedy, showing a tremendous amount of emotion, and Mr. Wysocki is just phenomenal, never stooping to the stereotype of the kid who just needs someone to believe in him, but being so much more than just that. Again, watch Terri, I cannot insist more on that, trust me when I say you won’t regret it.

Grade: A-

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