Judge Alice Nelson once put a guy in jail for wearing pajamas in her courtroom; they had one of those back flaps.
Our review of Terri (Blu-ray), published October 10th, 2011, is also available.
The right pajamas can make all the difference.
"I screw up all the time because that's what people do, life's a mess dude but we're all just doing the best we can."—Principal Fitzgerald
Truer words have never been spoken.
Facts of the Case
Terri Thompson is doing the best he can; he manages to make it to school most days, even if he is dressed in his pajamas instead of normal street clothes. But Terri's life isn't a normal teenager's life; he is a kid who was abandoned by both mom and dad and has the immense responsibility of caring for his Uncle Jim (Creed Bratton, The Office), who suffers with Alzheimer's disease. When Assistant Principal Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), takes a liking to the boy and offers to meet with him weekly as a sounding board of sorts, Terri finds that the man's friendship is something that he was in dire need of. Along with Chad (Bridger Zadina), a troubled boy who pulls his hair out when he's stressed, and Heather (Olivia Crocicchia, Almost Kings) a young girl who made a decision that caused her to be ostracized by the entire school, Terri begins to come to terms with who he is and finds that being a mess or not, he doesn't need to be alone.
Director/writer Azazel Jacobs (Momma's Man) took a group of individuals and made this quirky little character driven drama about people getting involved in each other's messy lives. Life's problems aren't able to be tied up in a neat little package at the end of 90 minutes and Terri doesn't try to solve all the issues of the characters by the time the credits roll. Azazel gives us a glimpse into the lives of four people who are willing to stumble along together and work through this thing called life. It was refreshing to see a motion picture that dealt with serious issues and not try to simplify them in order to fit the time frame of a movie. The film's pacing is slow but that isn't a bad thing; on the contrary the pace gives us an opportunity to get to know them and in a voyeuristic kind of way also involve ourselves in their messy existence as well. Terri is a sweet kid who loves and cares for his uncle without complaint and who befriends the likes of two very lost souls without hesitation.
Jacob Wysocki was perfect in the title roll of Terri, a heavy set kid who didn't seem to care what others thought about him. I mean come on, he wore pajamas to school every day, this wasn't person concerned with what folks had to say about him. As a matter of fact he didn't seem to want to associate with people at all and spent the majority of his free time caring for his Uncle Jim (Bratton) and enjoying those precious moments when Jim was his old self again. Wysocki portrayed Terri with a kind of clumsy confidence you might find in a person who spends a lot of time in his own head. He did however have an interest in one of his classmates, a young girl named Holly Miles, whom he admired from afar. While secretly watching her one day in class, Terri saw another kid named 'Dirty Zac,' convince Holly into letting his hands wander up her skirt. Spotted by others in the room as well, news soon spread throughout the school making the young girl something of a pariah. Note to teenaged girls, steer clear of guys with 'Dirty' as part of their moniker, it can only lead to trouble. Finding out Holly was to be expelled for her actions, Terri took up her cause and defended her to Assistant Principal Fitzgerald, pleading with the man not to expel her for something she was forced to do. His appeal worked and when he was chivalrous towards her in front of the whole class, the two forged a deep connection that showed Holly she didn't need to use her body to gain true friendship. Crocicchia plays Holly with an innocence that belies her troubled life. Azazel didn't take the easy road and make her the pretty school slut; she was much more than that, she was someone searching for love and acceptance in all the wrong ways and places, but underneath Holly was a good kid who was simply lost.
Chad Marks (Zadina) was a boy who had the strange habit of pulling the hair right off of his scalp when stressed. He meets Terri while the two were waiting outside of Principal Fitzgerald's office and a tenuous bond was formed. Chad is 'Laurel' to Terri's 'Hardy,' with Chad's small frame dwarfed by Terri's hefty size. It looked like a strange pairing but there was a genuine affection between the two. Zadina was very convincing as the wiry Chad and shows the kid's anxious desperation in a way that at times made him seem slimy and untrustworthy but also as lost as Holly was and in dire need of a real friend like Terri.
John C. Reilly was wonderful as Assistant Principal Fitzgerald, the catalyst that took the time to get to know a group of misfits, who were lost in the cracks like so many kids are in an overworked public school system. Once an outcast himself, Fitzgerald used his position in the school to set aside time where these lost kids could come and open up to him in ways they just couldn't in their daily lives. Fitzgerald wasn't portrayed as some faultless angel to Terri and the rest; he too had his demons which made his character all the more likeable and believable. Reilly's character used humor to engage with these kids but he also had the heart to show them that he was empathetic to their situation and in the end Fitzgerald benefitted from these friendships as much as Terri and his band of outcasts did.
Terri was shot in 1.85:1 widescreen, with the audio in 5.1 Dolby Digital. As far as DVD's go, it was a fine viewing experience and the dialogue was easy to understand. Extras included a featurette with director Azazel Jacobs and Jacob Wysocki discussing what went on behind the scenes.
Terri is one of those little gems you don't go looking for but find just the same. There's a beautiful simplicity to the film that touched my heart in a way I truly didn't expect. I can relate to that feeling of not belonging and searching for someone, anyone to connect with. Sometimes life sucks and there's no way around it, and in high school that suckiness is multiplied by a hundred. If you're not into movies with purposeful meandering, you may not want to participate. As for me, I loved every minute of it.
Even with the pajamas, NOT Guilty.
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