This was recommended to me by a blogger. It’s one of those films which I may never have seen otherwise, but Terri is a sweet little film about a high school boy coming of age and trying to find his way in the world. It’s not easy for Terri who lives with his sickly Uncle (it’s never clear what his deal is) – neither parent is around. Terri is a likeable kid, and though a few of his classmates tease him, he seems generally to get along without any truly unbearable incidents. Terri has taken to wearing pajamas all the time – even to class, which seems not to be a problem at the particular school he attends. He does have counseling sessions every Monday with Assistant Principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly). Oh, Terri is obese.
In Terri’s sessions with Mr. Fitzgerald, he’s subjected to a quirky view of life. Fitzgerald shares his particular vision with Terri: straight shooting, meet life head-on. Simply, people can be separated into two categories – those with good hearts and those with not so good. Find the good ones and hang with them. Mr. Fitzgerald can see that Terri is one of the former.
One day in the cafeteria, Terri sees one of his classmates being “fingered” under the table. He’s dumbstruck. Word gets around and the boy is expelled. When Terri hears that the girl (Heather, played by Olivia Crocicchia) is to be expelled as well, Terri comes to her defense, telling Mr. Fitzgerald that she may not have exactly been a willing participant in the act. Fitzgerald relents. Heather, once popular, is now shunned. Terri sits with her and a friendship develops.
It’s a low-key, leisurely paced story (there are several shots of Terri meandering in his slow-moving way) that slows the viewer down right along with Terri. Life doesn’t need living at breakneck speed, there are alternatives. There are some quirky minor characters (Ms. Hamish, Fitzgerald’s elderly administrative assistant, the priest at her funeral, the teachers who are almost all unusual). That’s the way the world seems to be set up. I didn’t know this until the DVD came in the mail, but the screenplay was written by Patrick DeWitt. That explains all the quirkiness. DeWitt wrote one of the best damn books of the year, The Sisters Brothers, a Booker short listed novel, which certainly had some unusual characters in attendance.
Terri seems to be fairly well-adjusted to his weight, but there are still tell-tale signs that his adjustments come at a price. His pajama wearing is probably due to his just being more comfortable in loose-fitting apparel. He resists lashing out at his persecutors, unless they get really persistent. He doesn’t seem depressed, but he doesn’t seem particularly happy either. He just wants to be liked – as does Heather, which is maybe why they seem to bond.
Ah, the terrors of High school are bad enough. Terri has other issues to deal with besides the normal ones of people his age. Terri is played by Jacob Wysocki who seems no great shakes as an actor, but it works here. His Uncle is portrayed by The Office’s Creed Bratton.