Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ebert Thoughts ‘12—Terri (2011) ***½

R, 105 min.
Director: Azazel Jacobs
Writers: Patrick Dewitt, Azazel Jacobs
Starring: Jacob Wysoki, John C. Reilly, Bridger Zadina, Creed Bratton, Olivia Crocicchia

This is the first of two movies screening at this year’s Ebertfest that I’m looking at again after having last seen it only a few months ago. I watched “Terri” last November and included an entry in my weekly Penny Thoughts feature about it. Read it here.

This time, I’d like to comment a little more on the John C. Reilly character. As an adult, his character doesn’t really fall into the dramatic points of the movie. He plays an important role in Terri’s development as an awkward outcast in high school, that’s for sure; but the movie is in no way about the high school principal played by Reilly.

Even so, I think it is Reilly’s character that is the true heart and soul of this movie. He’s the guiding force for Terri. The person that Terri has always needed in his life, but never had. Terri’s uncle, whom he lives with, has a disconnect in his brain. The film never says specifically what is wrong with him, but it is clear that Terri is the caregiver in the relationship. His uncle can be an adult, if you catch him at the right time, but you can’t count on him the way you can a father.

It’s Reilly who is the father figure for Terri. But the film is not about a skewed world being set right with the right influences. Writers Patrick Dewitt and Azazel Jacobs understand that no body’s perfect and very few things ever go the way they’re planned. Reilly is very flawed in many of his mentoring methods. He’s not above outright lies. He doesn’t necessarily draw any lines of appropriateness between adults and children. Well, he draws some, but probably less than most parents would appreciate. He’s frank and elusive, sometimes at once. But, he knows he’s flawed. He knows he makes mistakes. And that’s what a kid like Terri really needs to know.

Terri’s world isn’t about perfection. Because he’s an outcast, perfection isn’t even a goal for him. He just wants to be able to be who he is. Reilly’s character proves to him that he can. He’s going to be picked on. Being able to realize that he isn’t the only imperfection in the world is what makes that bearable for Terri. 

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