Terri (2011)

by George Watches Things

***½

I immediately felt for Terri. The movie makes you feel for him from the very first shot. We find him, to put it bluntly, overflowing from a bath tub. He is huge. Soon after, we learn how much he has to deal with at home and at school. I’d say that the character doesn’t evolve, over the course of the movie, into a better person. The assistant principal of his high school thinks he’s good-hearted from the beginning, and I agree. Terri shows a boy acting with his good heart, and it hopes it may make you do the same.

Terri is a 15-year-old who could pass for a 25-year-old, if only because he is obese. He has no friends, at least none that we see or hear about. His parents are gone (I’ll get to this in a bit). Lately, he has taken joy in setting traps for mice in his backyard (I’ll get to this in a bit). He is constantly late for school, and his grades are dropping. The aforementioned assistant principal, a man named Mr. Fitzgerald played by John C. Reilly, begins worrying about him, and soon develops a bond with him.

After going under Mr. Fitzgerald’s wing, Terri finds friends. Two of them, to be exact. There is Chad, a “screw-up” who likes to pull out his own hair, and then there is Heather, who gets ridiculed after “Dirty Jack” touches her inappropriately during class (the class laughs at the couple, but Terri doesn’t… he knows what that’s like).

The acting in Terri is rather good. The moments between Terri and Fitzgerald are rich and authentic. Creed Bratton, known for his outrageous yet wonderful work on The Office, turns in a great, understated performance as Terri’s senile uncle, with whom Terri lives. Reilly, who has had a busy year, anchors this movie like few others could have. Reilly really is one of the best actors going right now. Jacob Wysocki does a pretty job as the title character, although I think his performance has been overrated by some critics.

Terri sneaks up on you. It’s very understated while being very powerful. The bad guy in Terri is society. It’s you. And it’s me.

The sunglasses that Heather awkwardly puts on during class existed only to make Terri a hero. And early on, I actually wrote down: “If Heather falls for Terri, I’m going to be mad at this movie.” (I bought their interactions, but having the good guy get the girl seems very unlikely in this scenario.) Spoiler alert. She does. And then the film takes a rather dark detour. The “dark detour” does allow for Terri to have a good guy moment without the help of Reilly/Fitzgerald, which I am thankful for. We are rewarded with a sobbing Terri refusing to take advantage of a near-unconscious Heather. Terri isn’t without his flaws (dead mice, peer pressure), as Terri isn’t without its flaws, either.

I like the way the film handles the fact that Terri’s parents left him (a fact, by the way, that I had completely forgotten about). It mentions it once and moves on.

Terri works on many levels. For example, he likes to feed dead mice to owls. Why? Because owls are beautiful and, to Terri, they seem pure. There are plenty of metaphoric owls (see: Dirty Jack, maybe even the new secretary) feeding on plenty of metaphoric mice (see: Terri, Heather, Chad, Fitzgerald, Ms. Hamish, etc.) in the world, but when Terri feeds the owl, he is in control, and he is doing a good thing for the owl.

Terri ends with Terri smiling. There are a lot of sad people out there, but Terri isn’t one of them.

“Why did you help me?” “Why not?”

This movie asks questions worth asking, which is why you should see it.

Notes:

  • Chad reminded me of the episode of Raising Hope in which we see Jimmy eating his own hair in flashbacks. Good stuff!
  • I love when a movie lingers in my brain because it was thought-provoking.
  • Don’t forget to vote in our 70s poll!
  • Terri is available now on Amazon Instant and iTunes.
  • If you see and enjoy Terri, you might also want to check out The Social Network and Taxi Driver.
  • As of November 8, Terri is the 3rd best film of 2011, in my opinion.
  • Coming soon: we finally get those 70s results, I talk about sex, and a “behind-the-scenes” here at The Movie Blog.
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