Monday, 24 January 2011
SUNDANCE 2011: Terri
Starring: Jacob Wysoski, John C. Reilly, Creed Bratton, Olivia Croccichia, Bridger Zadina
By Alan Bacchus
The trauma of high school receives another creative interpretation in Terri, the story of an overweight teenager, who by the nature of his size, just doesn’t fit in. Though it's heart is in the right place, an ambling unfocused narrative and glacially-paced absurdist set pieces make this an extremely frustrating experience.
Jacoby Wyoski is the title character, introduced with a random set of peculiar idiosyncrasies. Sure, he’s overweight, and he’s made fun of, but not a torturous kind of bullying. He lives with his uncle (Creed Bratton) who suffers from some kind of psychological disease which requires heavy medication. Terri has also recently taken a liking to trapping mice and feeding them to the local birds. He also wears pyjamas at all times, even to school.
At school, his chronic lateness gets him in trouble with the oddball vice-principal (John C. Reilly), a bombastic personality, full of clichéd authoritative hyperbole as well as his own set of deranged idiosyncrasies. There’s also the type-A hot chick, whom Terri ogles over, but of course has no chance of scoring. Wait. Terri somehow ingratiates himself to her, sparking a potential romance, and the chance that he may break out of his shell and achieve normalcy.
The absurd comic interactions are stymied by a frustrating overindulgence in awkward silences, and deadpan expressionless reactions to these shenanigans. Among these is the character of Chad, an oddball goth kid who habitually plucks his hair out. Their trip to the funeral of the principal’s spacey secretary is one such scene which exists for the sake of creating awkwardness, and even fails to deliver enough laughs to justify its existence.
Without defined goals and a concrete narrative through line, the comic dalliances add up to nothing. The melancholy and delicate piano score attempts to tie up the tonal inconsistencies and give us some emotional closure, but it’s just too cerebral to make up for the inane randomness.
God bless John C. Reilly though who saves the picture from complete failure. He generates all of the laughs, relishing the opportunity to make the most of his kooky character.
The only other thing to cling onto is a potentially warm love story between Terri and his unattainable attraction. This doesn’t gain traction until the second half, and even then the opportunity is wasted with an overlong drunken and trippy threesome set piece in the final act.
Admittedly I could see some audiences lapping up the zaniness of the picture, but outside of the easy Sundance audience, there isn't much hope.