Bits of Personality Can't Save Terri from a Familiar Fate 

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Terri
Directed by Azazel Jacobs

The title character of already-a-veteran director Azazel Jacobs's latest is an overweight teen pariah (Jacob Wysocki) who lives with his increasingly senile uncle (Creed Bratton), passes time watching hawks feast on dead mice, and attends school wearing pajamas. Terri's strange behavior and frequent absences—the result of suffering almost constant humiliation in the classroom—land him weekly conversations with vice principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), the "cool" authority figure he desperately needs.

If the above synopsis sounds familiar it's because you've likely seen Terri before in countless after-school specials. Mr. Fitzgerald helps Terri overcome his insecurities, Terri feels betrayed when discovering Mr. Fitzgerald uses the same "best-buds" tactics with other troubled students, Mr. Fitzgerald confesses his own domestic difficulties, etc. What's supposed to set the film apart is its indie authenticity and bullshit-averse dramedy. Unlike most of his peers, Jacobs actually knows how to light a scene for emotional effect, and his script with co-writer Patrick deWitt (working from the latter's short stories) nails some oddities of high school life—especially in the scrawny spaziness of our hero's new misfit compatriot Chad (Bridger Zadina)—but too often Terri falls back on soft reassurances. "We're all just doing the best we can" is one of Mr. Fitzgerald's imparted bits of wisdom, and it disproves itself in the telling.

Terri does possess one stand-out sequence in which Terri, Chad, and love interest Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) get crunked off swiped whiskey and meds and then proceed to fumble through not-quite-ready-yet sexual advances as sublimely awkward and unresolved as anything in real life. Much of the rest of the film can be thrown out the window.

Opens July 1

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