The real teens have arrived: Hollywood has given us its version in recent weeks, placing tender dorks near ear-shattering explosions (Super 8) and, no less harshly, Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher). But where are the awkward longueurs we recall from that time of life, bereft of witty dialogue and good posture?
Terri, a new film from NYC-born Azazel Jacobs, rights the balance keenly. Marked by little of the instaquirk typical among Sundance exports, the movie thrusts you into a soft, uncomfortable address of such real-looking kids as our male hero (Wysocki), encased in rolls of fat and uneasy even when clad in pajamas, his go-to outfit. At Terri's suburban high school, he attracts the attention of the vice principal (Reilly, uncorking both his shouty little boy and an uncommon maturity), who takes a respectful interest. It's also the moment in life when Terri, who lives at home with an unwell uncle, makes two new friends: rabbity, nervous Chad (Bridger Zadina) and, more significantly, crushed Heather (Crocicchia), ostracized from the cool crowd and sweet to Terri's concern.
Coming up is a sequence of children behaving badly: drinking whiskey, popping unprescribed meds, shedding clothes. It's difficult to watch and almost undoubtedly true in every respect. Jacobs, whose previous film, 2008's Momma's Man, mined similar excruciating territory, seems to be staking out a special niche, the place where age and responsibility are just vague suggestions and behavior is inchoate. His latest, a tiny, deft step toward the mainstream, is a movie that could terrify parents while charming them with its compassion.
Read our interview with director Azazel Jacobs
Watch the trailer