Terri Review: Azazel Jacobs' Freaks and Geeks

By Karina Longworth in Reviews
Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 2:06 am

In Azazel Jacobs' higher budget, much more conventionally polished follow-up to his 2008 Sundance hit Momma's Man, Jacob Wysocki stars as Terri, a fat kid loner who lives with his mildly mentally ill uncle and lumbers off to school wearing pajamas to school every day. 

Chronically tardy and harassed by the other kids for his "double ds," Terri is embraced as a problem case by his high school's assistant principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reily), who has problems of his own. When Mr. Fitzgerald asks Terri to meet with him every Monday, the grown-up bills it as a friendly gesture--"What's weird about two guys sitting down, sharing snacks and shooting the shit?"

But Terri soon realizes that he's one of a half dozen other misfits who meet with the adult weekly, and that since the others are either physically deformed or obviously crazy, the tap from Fitzgerald only confirms that Terri is "part of a group of ... monsters."

Humanistic without being moralistic, and very funny, Terri is a measured, observational examination of the stratification of teenage loser-dom. It sketches out the steep learning curve of high school, in which the playing field between a mean-spirited burnout and a sweet kid who simply doesn't fit in is leveled with a single incident, and a lapse in self confidence can plunge a would-be mistress of the universe several levels down into the freakiverse. At the same time, Terri bitter-comically reveals that the disciplinary structure of teenage life is a farce compared to the muddled, endless purgatory of adulthood.

Its climax, a glorious extended three-hander in which Terri, his love interest and a frenemy get wasted and confront their basest impulses, is perfectly modulated. The kind of scene that would be played for nihilist shock in a typical Amerindie, Jacobs stages it to reveal depths, layers, and vulnerabilities to characters who couldn't reveal their vulnerabilities until forced by intoxicants. Crowd pleasing without being pandering, Terri above all else feels true.

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