Terri is director Azazel Jacobs’s (Momma’s Man) hilarious and heartfelt film about overweight social outcast Terri Thompson (Jacob Wysocki) and his day-to-day ordeal of coping with the awful pecking order of high school. Abandoned by his parents, Terri lives with his uncle James (Creed Bratton) who is sick and often lost in the land of painkillers. But the two take care of each other, and it’s evident that home is the one place that Terri feels completely comfortable. That is until his principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), takes an interest in him. Unconventional yet wise, Mr. Fitzgerald draws Terri out of his shell and into the land of the living.
Out of a million movies about misfits, Terri sets itself apart. Why? Because it’s truthful. It skips the clichés of high school and focuses on genuine people. Yes, Terri is made fun of because of his weight and the fact that he wears pajamas to school every day. But he is a kind person, and not everyone in the school hates and mocks him. Terri befriends beautiful Heather (Olivia Crocicchia), ostracized for her promiscuity (getting fingered in Home Economics), and Chad (Bridger Zadina), a rebellious kid with trichotillomania and no friends. During a night of bonding over whiskey and painkillers, Chad declares he wants to “fuck the world!” then takes his pants off and pees on them, Heather gets naked, and Terri realizes that he is not interested in any of it. But the conversations are raw and honest, the situations real.
Still, it is Terri’s relationship with Mr. Fitzgerald that makes the movie sparkle. Their on-screen chemistry is undeniable, seeming at times to be less scripted than improvised. The comedic timing is impeccable (“Beans on toast? What, do you live in a hobo village? You guys go off on your donkeys after that?”), and the serious moments carry equal weight. In an age when bullying and teenage suicide are in the front of national consciousness, Terri makes it clear how important just one person reaching out and relating to your life can be.