by director Azazel Jacobs
My Manhattan high school was crazy. It was six stories high, the courtyard in its center filled with discarded classroom materials. Every day, while a teacher was talking, you'd see a plant, a desk, even chalkboards zipping past the window on their way down to the courtyard. By the time I graduated, no joke, this pile below had grown at least three stories high.
Terri's high school is not like this. It's a small school, in a small town, but there are similarities. Some kids are weird, some are popular, both students and teachers can be cruel, and chances are, there is that one person who makes a real difference and, who, intentionally or not, says something or does something that you carry away forever. There is no place in this town for someone like Terri; he's too big. He lives alone with his uncle who is quickly fading away, forcing Terri to be ever more responsible.
He wears pajamas to school. With no hopes of being cool, why not be comfortable?
When screenwriter Patrick deWitt showed me what would grow into Terri's story, I was drawn to it because—as different as it was from my own background—all of it was recognizable. Here was high school, alright.
Terri's become too comfortable. He's resigned to a life-pattern, when suddenly he's on a path he wasn't expecting. I wanted to make a film which would twist and turn, and keep twisting until landing someplace off the charts.
Terri is a comedy. When I sit with audiences, it is clear—people laugh, and that is what we hope for. John C. Reilly plays an assistant vice principal, a barking, bluffing, authority figure who is willing to confess he's as screwed up as the kids. And, acknowledge that the answers we all want may not in fact be there—but things happen anyway. But, more than funny, I hope Terri rings true in reflecting those adolescent moments that can go from bad to good in an instant or from good to just plain strange.