I’m a big Ebert fan, but sometimes I just can’t disagree with him more as is the case with Terri, which he gave four stars. I found the film to be extremely unlikable, from its cast of quirky introverts to its intentional vagueness that elicited dull ambivalence rather than ambiguous rewards. The titular character is an overweight 15-year-old who inexplicably wears pajamas to school everyday and is picked on as anyone who wears pajamas to school everyday would be. Outside of the senile uncle he cares for (played by The Office‘s Creed Bratton), Terri doesn’t have a particular talent or character trait that puts viewers on his side. In fact, it’s just about impossible to feel sympathy for someone who spends his free time playing with dead animal carcasses (the whole thing is a failure of a metaphor that isn’t worth recounting in full). The film follows Terri over the course of a few weeks as he becomes involved with some similarly oddball characters that include a horny classmate with a habit of pulling large chunks of hair from his head, a slutty young girl who gets caught doing her thing in a classroom, and an assistant principal played by John C. Reilly in one of his most poorly defined and forgettable roles of recent years (and he was so good in 2010’s Cyrus). The film does contain moments of pure discomfort, but they feel more exploitative than interesting (think A Serbian Film rather than, say, a Todd Solondz film…that’s just off the top of my head). Ebert concluded that the film’s five central characters are “All original. None limited by story conventions. None seen by me in previous movies. Observed with attention and sympathy.” I disagree on all counts, especially the bit about story conventions though I can see how the film’s lack of defined substance could lead to that mentality. See it yourself and let me know what you think. Or just watch Angus instead, which Ebert gave three stars. Now that’s more like it.
Terri opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.