Nominated for the prestigious grand dury prize at last year’s Sundance, Azazel Jacob’s Terri is a refreshingly candid take on teenage angst and irreverence to and in society.
The Terri in question is a middle-American school kid. When not caring for his surrogate parent and sick uncle, Terri spends his time teasing birds of prey in the woods and meandering in and out of high school classrooms dressed only in pyjamas; undoubtedly becoming the brunt of the jock’s jabs, and going unnoticed by his class peers. As if life wasn’t enough of a burden for the adolescent, he is also alarmingly overweight, living on a steady diet of uncle Creed’s specialty – beans on toast. Super yums.
His vast screen appearance virtually unavoidable, Jacob and screenplay writer Patrick Dewitt don’t rely on lazy stereotypes to garner our attention. Fortunately, Terri is neither a larger than life chubby funster, nor tormented binge eater. Terri is just Terri – a disenchanted high school kid that has difficulty connecting with anyone willing to step into his world. Sound familiar? Most probably, we’ve all been there.
The biggest (in all senses of the word) achievement one could grant Terri is the discovery of star Jacob Wysocki. Although his take on an overweight teenager might not be such a testing role on a purely superficial level, Wysocki embodies all tropes of the difficult character, living as an adolescent in real time whilst also adorning a level of wisdom and insight reserved for someone of more senior stature.
The good performances don’t stop there. Taking a break from Brule’s Rules awesomeness, John C. Reilly is relatable earnest as Terri’s assistant principal and only real friend Mr Fitzgerald. Befriending the larger than life misfit, their relationship is pleasantly refreshing; illustrating that being conventionally unconventional isn’t limited to snooty yoofs.
Not quite dramatic enough for some, and certainly not out and out comedic, Terri slots nicely into the burgeoning niche genre of ‘dramedy’ coming out of the mumble core America. Indie through and through, the film suffers from thematic dropouts and travels at a snail-pace. If you have the patience to sit through all that, Terri reveals itself to be a delicately crafted and lightweight exemplar of journal filmmaking.