USA, 2011, 101 min
With wit and affection, director Azazel Jacobs’ follow-up to his lauded film Momma’s Man (2008) surveys the myriad ways one might find oneself a struggling misfit. Terri is a heavy, shambling, pajama-wearing junior-high student, the physical incarnation of all the insecurity and awkwardness that accompany adolescence. We get to know the taciturn Terri as he cares for his ailing uncle (a man at turns gentle and derisive), conducts solitary experiments in zoology and pines for a girl just out of reach. When vice principal Fitzgerald (played with superb clarity and humor by John C. Reilly) tags Terri as an at-risk student, Terri joins the ranks of “official” oddballs and fears his school days are numbered. Instead, a charmingly disjointed friendship forms between two outcasts, one young and one old. Awakened by Mr. Fitzgerald’s openness about his own past and his oddly direct, often corny conversations, Terri begins to empathize with the plight of those around him. Patrick deWitt’s screenplay depicts with precision and compassion a hilariously touching, deeply humane tale of youth in transition. What is especially remarkable about Terri is that it manages to bridge a potentially vast gulf between its deeply awkward outcasts and the audience. We end up walking with them every shambling step of the way.