High school teen film is hard to come by lately, the last one that crossed my mind was The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) or Easy A (2010). I think this kind of movie had its glory in the 80s to 200s. One of the criteria that sets this type of movie appart is the apparent social conventions portrayed in the film. Since John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club to 10 Things I Hate About You, high school life is constantly portrayed in dissected, hierarchal castes, where the popular kids rule, and the story is told from a minority point of view. Nowadays it’s more common to find high school teen film in the form of teen comedy/drama series on television instead.
Ryan Murphy’s Glee is one of the current TV series that capitalize on that convention. And now one of the prominent star of the series, Chris Colfer seems to write his first screenplay by doing the same thing. But is it better than Glee?
Welcome to Clover, population 9525 people, where High-School senior Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer) runs a highly unpopular writer’s club and aim to be the youngest editor for The New York Times, well that was before he was struck by a lightning. Carson Phillips have his ambition, to go to collage, away from his dysfunctional single mother, away from the town he hates, and fulfill his dream. When he did not get any response from the university he applied for, he sets out to create a school literary magazine, in hope to impress the board of admission and guarantee his spot in the university. But when his only sidekick and friend only capable of plagiarizing, Malerie Baggs (Rebel Wilson), he know he needs help from another member of the school board, by any means possible…
The usual clique is here, the jock, the cheerleader, the goth, the pot head, the artistic, the foreign student, etc. And in this movie Carson is not part of the clique, i’m not even sure he’s the outcast. For one thing, Carson is too loud-mouthed to be called opinionated, he constantly criticize people aggressively and impolitely. So it is not a surprise that no one actually like him. Then as the film evolved it became obvious that he is the bully in the story, he bully his peers, his teacher, and his mother. I wonder if the original intent by Colfer was to create a smart, ambitious, strong character who can defy conventions and driven by ambition, but instead it came across antagonistic and just generally bitter and unlikeable.
His frustration probably come from his mother (Allison Janney) who has a love/hate feeling about having him and his absent father (Dermot Mulroney) that in turns changed his mother into a self medicated, alcoholic. His father returned to their life when he needed to finalize his divorce before he marry his pregnant fiancee, April (Christina Hendricks). His source of solace is his grandmother whose memories are deteriorating due to Alzheimer. His interaction with his grandma actually one of the most compelling one in the film, especially when he needs her affections.
The supporting character are relatively known doing roles in TV sitcoms, Sarah Hyland, from Modern Family as the head cheerleader student body president, Allie Grant from Suburgatory as the year book coordinator, Angela Kinsey from The Office US as the clueless Cloverhigh’s Guidance Counselor, and Ashley Rickards from MTV’s Awkward as the goth girl (who are underutilized in this film, tbqh). The scene stealer, however, is Rebel, as the awkward girl who always brought her camcorder everywhere and gave unexpected wisdom. Really a restrained performance from Rebel too, which works well in this film :)
Jumbled of story meshed in the film made it feels like a less-saturated version of Glee (and minus the auto-tuned songs). However, the film moral lesson become more evident in the aftermath of Carson Phillips death. It has a positive and uplifting note, which made the movie a little bit more acceptable for me. We all can learn from Carson constant strive to his ambition, carpe fucking diem!
I’m guessing fan of Colfer (and/or Glee) would wanna watch the film. I commend Colfer debut attempt to write a screenplay, the big idea is there, but it still lacks the finesse of making it a compelling and more profound. The idea did not actually translate in both for the story and the shaping of the character. But hey, maybe it’s more appealing in the book version, then again you cant always trust GoodReads rating.
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING (2013)
GENRE Comedy, Coming-of-Age
DIRECTOR Brian Dannelly | PRODUCER David Permut, Mia Chang, Rob Aguire, Chris Colfer | WRITER Chris Colfer | MUSIC Jake Monaco | CINEMATOGRAPHER Bobby Bukowski | EDITOR Tia Nolan | STUDIO Permut Presentations | DISTRIBUTOR Tribeca Film | COUNTRY United States | RUNNING TIME 84 minutes | RELEASE January 11, 2013
STARRING Chris Colfer, Allison Janney, Rebel Wilson, Christina Hendricks, Sarah Hyland, Allie Grant, Ashley Rickards, Robbie Amell, Carter Jenkins, Matt Prokop, Dermot Mulorney
Stills are from IMDb