Review: Terri (Blu-ray/DVD)

The ‘Comedy’ genre has been endlessly dragged through the mud from being slammed onto anything and everything, recently. Shows like Shit my Dad Says (2010) and films like Jack and Jill (2011) shouldn’t be called comedy, but they at least maintain the elements (most of the time) of the genre. The idea of slapping the genre of comedy onto the film Terri (and marketing it as one, even) perplexes me. The film has some jokes in it, occasionally (I believe there were four), but by no means is Terri a comedy.

Director Azazel Jacobs introduces us into possible one of the most uncomfortable coming-of-age-drama’s to be released in recent times, Terri, a film focusing on Terri (played by Jacob Wysocki), an obese 15 year old from a rural town trying to cope with his difficult life. He struggles with the typical loneliness and bullying, as well as taking care of the senile Uncle James. It probably doesn’t help that he decides to wear Pajamas’s to school because they’re comfortable, but hey. When Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) is essentially raped during home economic by a fellow student (laughing yet?), she’s removed from her social group and ridiculed by the entire school. Terri saves her from expulsion, and then proceeds to become friends with her. Then there’s Chad (Bridger Zadina), a troubled child who Terri becomes friends with, who also is the bane of his existence. Both Chad and Terri have weekly visits to the principal (John C. Reilly) who listens to their problems and helps solve them, probably because the school couldn’t afford a psychologist.

The film, first and foremost, is a character drama. You won’t see Terri being beaten up for a quick five minute action scene, so be prepared for 105 minutes of dialogue. It’s a realistic portrayal of it’s events, for the most part, and becoming engaged with the simple conversations, sometimes without any relevance,  is easy because of it. This realistic portrayal is what makes Terri so uncomfortable, aside from Terri getting a sadistic pleasure from killing rats, is the entire ending of the film makes you feel like it’s about to jump from being legal to illegal to actually have filmed, made worse even more so from the sympathy we’re encouraged to have.

This whole film wouldn’t work without it’s performances, and every single actor provides. Jacob Wysocki is so realistically innocent, and convey’s nearly everything through his face alone. While at the beginning his acting seemed slightly exaggerated, in my opinion,  he soon drops that, and is entirely believable as Terri, possibly through his own experiences brought into the film. John C. Reilly picks up his kind hearted Chicago act and takes it to the next level, mostly in part to the well written script. In fact, every actor fulfills their role to the fullest, the care taken in writing this film shows, and the conviction of every actor is stunning.

There’s no doubt as to why the film was among the 16 of over 1000 this year to be selected for Sundance 2011, The film looks beautiful, and there’s no question that it’s an original, thought provoking film that deserves a wider audience, but how uneasy it’s made me feel is enough to say I won’t be revisiting it (though my purchase is not regretted, by any means). The film will stick with you, but you’ll remember the moments of tension, rather than specific lines of dialogue. Terri fulfills it’s purpose without forcing morals down your throat, and while the ending may leave more to be desired for some, I cannot feel that it is anything less than suitable. Just don’t expect a comedy.