Dir. Azazel Jacobs
Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is a teen-aged schlep. Large, lumpish and shambling with a longish mop of dark hair, he's the kind of kid you think you have an automatic bead on right up until the time you hear him speak. Instead of a whiny voice, filled with indulgent self-pity, he has the calm, measured elan of a well-spoken parent or teacher, and with it director Azazel Jacob's film reveals more of its true intent. Terri might be heavyset and slightly ridiculous looking walking around the halls of his high school in full pajamas (why? "They're comfortable," he says with a shrug), but he isn't some facile self-reclamation project in the making. He may be heavy, but he's no weighed-down archetype.
His parents are gone away (when asked where, Terri simply answers "I don't know"), so he lives in the house of his Uncle James (Creed Bratton from "The Office"), an elderly man who suffers from bouts of dementia. Caring for his sick uncle, on his own and forced to take charge of the household has left Terri with a strong caring instinct, one not lost on the school Vice Principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), who takes a strong interest in the teen and arranges weekly meetings with him just to "shoot the breeze." It is only later that Terri discovers that Mr. Fitzgerald has made similar arrangements with other obviously physically or mentally disadvantaged kids, including a young psychopath with scalp wounds named Chad (Bridger Zadina). Terri laments that part of Mr. Fitzgerald's interest in him is because he so obviously needs help. When confronted with his duplicity, Mr. Fitzgerald's response encapsulates the film's theme very succinctly: "Life's a mess," he explains, "We're all just doing the best we can." When Terri begins to hit it off with an equally ostracized girl, Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) it is to Mr. Fitzgerald that he goes for advice, even as Chad threatens to completely spoil the experience of what might be Terri's first date.
Jacobs' film works hard to make Terri a well-rounded character (pun intended), with plenty of warts and impulse control problems to augment his sweet-natured temperament and pathos. He's still not sure why he reacts to things the way he does, but he's mature enough to recognize that he doesn't know. In short, he's a kid well on his way to becoming a mature adult who recognizes his limitations and takes advantage of his strengths. Unfortunately, not all the characters in the film are so well rendered: Heather, though sweet, perhaps takes too quick a run at Terri to be quite believable and Chad morphs into something of cartoon character, an outtake from a John Hughes movie. Indeed, a scene late in the proceedings with the three young protagonists sitting in Terri's garage, drinking whiskey and trading foibles begins to echo The Breakfast Club perhaps a bit too much, with Chad in the Ally Sheedy teen psycho role and good girl gone bad Heather as Molly Ringwald. Still, the film is filled with good, honest moments and an excellent rapport between Wysocki and Reilly, who really take on the relationship of equals. Mr. Fitzgerald may be an adult but he has far from worked his life out. Terri might still have a long ways to go, but in his own way he's no further back than anyone else.