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Terri – 2011 LAFF

By Noelle Buffam · June 27, 2011

Terri, directed by Azazel Jacobs and written by Patrick Dewitt, is a modern day coming-of-age story that plays off the subtle awkwardness of high-school life. The film follows Terri (Jacob Wysocki), a 15-year-old boy who struggles to adjust to his already difficult life. Overweight and a social outcast, Terri starts to wear pajamas to school everyday. This action garners the attention of Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), and the two forge an unusual mentor-student relationship.

The teenage misfit has been a staple in movies for a long time… which is what makes Terri so refreshing. As the main character, Terri is a believable protagonist. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know a “Terri” in high-school, and that is just what Azazel Jacobs wanted. Terri’s two sidekicks of sorts, Chad (Bridger Zadina) and Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) illicit the same familiarity. Chad is the squirrely, smart-ass no one in school likes.  Heather is the school slut, ostracized by her so-called friends.

Don’t get me wrong, these characters are anything but cliche. Their circumstances in the film, combined with the actors’ raw performances give them the edge needed draw the perfect line between familiar and real.

One of the main themes of the film is the feeling of adolescence – the awkwardness, the hardship, and the ugly. Jacobs wanted to make sure the audience could feel what the characters felt, which is why it was crucial to have each of the characters emotionally “accessible”. And as much as the characters had to be accessible, so too did the young actors.

Much of the film is looming in the shadow of the coming-of-age moment… a moment that hinges on sex. Azazel Jacobs referred to the intimate scenes as “dangerous”, going so far as to say that one scene in particular was the “elephant in the room” while filming. However, the execution of these moments are perfect. Not too much. Not too little. Jacobs manages to tell a realistic coming-of-age story without being kitsch.

Terri, which comes out next Friday, is a different kind of teen movie. It provides an interesting insight into the more subtle moments. And whether these moments are awkward, funny, heartwarming, or heartbreaking, we can all relate. In writer Patrick Dewitt’s words, “It wasn’t just me. Everyone felt that way, right?”