“Life’s a mess but we’re all just doing the best we can.” Mr. Fitzgerald
Terri (2011) is a slice-of-life, independent film which reveals the difficulties endured by its title character, Terri Thompson, played by Jacob Wysocki. The movie opens on Terri, an obese teenager, lounging in a mildew-stained bathtub in the dingy, decrepit, ramshackle home he shares with his Uncle James (played by Creed Bratton – “Creed” from “The Office”), who is chemical dependent and not stable. Terri attends school in his pajamas, as they are “comfortable on his body,” endures teasing and bullying, kills mice to feed a falcon and mostly keeps to himself. He also has no idea where his parents might be.
However, Terri’s loner status is in jeopardy, as people are brought into his life through varying circumstances. The principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (played by John C. Reilly), becomes close to him in an attempt to help him cease his prolific and habitual classroom tardiness. In a speech about “good hearted kids” versus “bad hearted kids,” Fitzgerald pronounces Terri a “good hearted” one and sets up a weekly meeting so that they can become pals.
Terri quickly becomes disillusioned, as he catches on that Fitzgerald meets weekly with other students, not really because they are “good hearted,” but actually because they are misfits, or as Terri calls them, “a group of monsters.” This group includes a student with Down’s Syndrome, an autistic girl, a kid in a wheelchair, and a boy named Chad (played by Bridger Zadina) who pulls out his hair in bunches (an obsessive-compulsive disorder called trichotillomania).
Although Fitzgerald tries to deny Terri’s “monster” status, Terri is realistic about how his classmates see him:
“I’m treated like a monster because that’s what I am to them.”
Chad and Terri form a bond from their “monster,” status, and compare notes regarding Fitzgerald’s meetings with them. This creates further disillusionment. Terri becomes close to another student, Heather (played by Olivia Crocicchia), and tries to save her from the gossip mill and being ostracized by other girls as a result of her naughty playtime in class with a particularly nasty beau, Dirty Zack. When Terri asks Heather, “Why Dirty Zack?” she responds, “It feels good to be wanted.”
There are some very nicely-written and well-portrayed peripheral characters in this movie. Ms. Hamish is Fitzgerald’s elderly secretary whose voice reeks of 60 years of smoking and who gets off on Fitzgerald yelling at the students. Mrs. Davidson is a one of Terri’s teachers who loathes his tardy nature, appears haggard and un-amused, and who turns a blind eye to in-class bullying. Dirty Zack and his lineage represent all those types of boys who attempt to engage girls sexually, and then turn on them and call them sluts to ruin their reputations (even though they were engaged in the actions, too – the classic Double Standard).
I can definitely recommend this movie. It’s interesting, unique and deals very directly and realistically with issues surrounding being both a teenager and those considered “outsiders.” Be sure to watch the deleted scenes, as a few really give the back story on Chad – it’s information we actually needed to know.
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