Directed by Azazel Jacobs and screenplay by Patrick DeWitt from a story by Jacobs and DeWitt, Terri is the story of 15-year old overweight freshman whose odd behavior annoys students and teachers as he befriends an assistant principal. The film is an exploration into the world of high school outsiders who don’t fit in to a particular clique where they do whatever to stand out. Starring Jacob Wysocki, Creed Bratton, Bridger Zadina, Olivia Crocicchia, and John C. Reilly. Terri is a heartwarming film from Azazel Jacobs.
Living alone with his uncle James (Creed Bratton), Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is a 15-year old freshman who often arrives at school very late as he is overweight and wears pajamas. Teased at school and annoyed by teachers, Terri is often seen as an outcast as he gets the attention of the school’s assistant principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly). Fitzgerald decides to see Terri every Monday where he and Terri would have conversations about Terri’s failing grades and why he wears pajamas where they eventually become friends. Though Terri learns he’s part of a small group of misfits who sees Mr. Fitzgerald including a kid named Chad (Bridger Zadina). He learns why Mr. Fitzgerald is trying to connect with them learning that he was a kid who had been teased as well.
After an incident in which a young popular girl named Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) got in trouble for an incident she took part in. Terri pleads to Mr. Fitzgerald to not have her transferred as he saw the actual incident. Though Terri was able to save Heather, Heather had become a social pariah as she starts to connect with Terri over their own dysfunction. Following a meeting with Mr. Fitzgerald who is going through his own issues, Terri and Chad join Mr. Fitzgerald for a day just to make Chad feel included. Later that day when Heather decides to visit Terri to see his home, Chad makes an unexpected visit where the night turns into a strange one as Terri ponders about what is happening and its aftermath.
The film is essentially the story of a depressed 15-year old overweight kid who is alienated by the world of high school as the only friend he has is an assistant principal who tries to figure out what is going on. It’s a film that explores the high school misfit who doesn’t seem to fit in as he likes to wear pajamas because it makes him feel comfortable. Patrick DeWitt’s screenplay is told very loosely in order to explore this young boy’s life where he lives with an uncle who is very ill and often on medication. Notably as he is just someone trying to get through high school but is ridiculed for his appearance and the fact that he’s kind of naïve.
The only person that is there for him is this assistant principal who understands the world of misfits as the kids he talks to are misfits. While he might be seem to be the kind of authority figure that will shout at people, he is really more of someone who just wants to figure these kids including Terri. He eventually becomes Terri’s true friend since he does reveal bits about his own life while Terri does eventually gain a couple of more friends in misfits who are just as troubled as they connect with Terri. While Chad nor Heather aren’t as complex as Terri or Mr. Fitzgerald, they are interesting enough to help Terri come out of his flesh more although it would present challenges to someone who hasn’t had a lot of experience with parties and such.
Azazel Jacob’s direction is very straightforward in terms of its compositions and the way he frames the actors. Still, it is engaging enough for the way he captures the drama without going overboard while finding a lot of humor in the story and performances. Notably as the humor is more light-hearted and improvisational where it would create moments for the film to break out some of its melancholic tone. Some of that melancholia is in moments where Terri is often walking around the woods on his way to school as he looks towards the Californian landscape as well as the dead mice he had trapped to feed a big bird. Overall, Jacob creates a very solid and engrossing film about a young boy coming of age in high school in his exploration to find himself.
Cinematographer Tobias Datum does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful and sunny cinematography for many of the film‘s exteriors while utilizing stylish shadings for its interiors including the nighttime party scene between Terri, Chad, and Heather. Editor Darrin Navarro does nice work with the editing in utilizing a few jump cuts for some of the written conversations between Terri and Heather while the rest of the film emphasizes on a more straightforward approach. Production designer Matt Luem, with set decorator Lori Schneider and art director Nicolas Kelly, does superb work with the set pieces such as the home that Terri and Uncle James live in that is filled with appliances scattered around the house.
Costume designer Diaz does wonderful work with the costumes from the pajamas that Terri wears to the more grungy look of Chad. Sound designer Julia Shirar does terrific work with the sound to capture the calm atmosphere of the school to the sparse sounds of the exterior locations that Terri surrounds himself with. The film’s score by Mandy Hoffman is incredible for its melodic-driven score ranging folk-style guitars to somber piano themes to play out the film‘s melancholia.
The casting by Nicole Arbusto and Joy Dickson is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes some memorable small performances from comedian Tim Heidecker as a gym teacher, Justin Prentice as the high school douche bag Dirty Jack, Jenna Gavigan as a young receptionist, Mary Anne McGarry as Mr. Fitzgerald’s old receptionist, Tara Karsian as Terri’s homeroom teacher, and Melanie Abramoff as a home economics classmate of Terri and Heather. Olivia Crocicchia is very good as the popular girl turned social outcast Heather who befriends Terri following an incident as she seeks someone who makes her feel wanted. Bridger Zadina is superb as the hair-pulling Chad who likes to cause trouble and see what pushes Terri’s buttons.
Creed Bratton is excellent as Terri’s uncle James who is dealing with being on medication as well as being the only family that Terri has where it’s a very mesmerizing performance for the actor. John C. Reilly is great as the sympathetic assistant principal Mr. Fitzgerald who tries to understand Terri while revealing to be an outcast himself as it’s a very heartwarming performance for Reilly where he gets to be funny but also dramatic. Finally there’s newcomer Jacob Wysocki in a phenomenal performance as the titular character where he displays a naturalistic quality to his performance in the way he reacts to certain things while brooding upon his appearance and such as it’s a very broad performance from the newcomer.
Terri is a marvelous film from Azazel Jacob that features top-notch performances from newcomer Jacob Wysocki and John C. Reilly. The film is among one of the more intriguing coming of age films in recent years as well as very realistic portrayal into the world of high school life. It’s also a film that young teens who don’t feel like they’re part of any kind of social circle to see as it’s a film that could say something about them. In the end, Terri is a mesmerizing film from Azazel Jacob.
© thevoid99 2012