DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: SUNDANCE 2011: Terri

Monday 24 January 2011

SUNDANCE 2011: Terri

Terri (2010) dir. Azazel Jacobs
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.


Anonymous said...

I completey disagree with your review. Terri is beautiful little film that will feel real to anyone who felt awkward during high school. I loved it.

Anonymous said...

I rarely leave comments on reviews because my philosophy is "to each his own". But you must've been in a terrible mood when you saw this, because I've yet to meet anyone who disliked the film. It might be too long by 10 minutes or so, but it's real, honest, and beautiful. And funny to boot. It's a wonderful testament to the lives of many of us who were shoved aside as teens. When Terri actually smiles a genuine smile, it felt like a small victory. It's a lovely film that - if well-marketed - could be a small hit.

Alan Bacchus said...

Hey Anon,
Indeed I admonish that i'm in the minority, but what can I say, the film and I were completely out of sync. Having seen very few comedies this year, I was actually primed to laugh and enjoy this.
I wish the film the best of luck

Anonymous said...

It's because you were "primed to laugh" that you and the movie were out of sync. A reviewer shouldn't be primed for anything when going for a viewing...

Alan Bacchus said...

Wrong, I hated the movie, because of the reasons outlined in my review.

Blair Stewart said...

Dear Anon(s):

FYI-Other people have different tastes than you.
Shocking, ain't it?

"It's because you were "primed to laugh" that you and the movie were out of sync. A reviewer shouldn't be primed for anything when going for a viewing..."

Thanks for the advice, Anonymous recreant. Clap clap. Now go and spend $15 on the latest Friedberg/Seltzer 'spoof' and tell us that again.

"Terri is beautiful little film that will feel real to anyone who felt awkward during high school."

I now have diabetes from that comment. I'll sue.