|Jacob Wysocki is the Fat Kid|
Whatever happened to Matthew Lillard? You know, that guy who was great in SLC Punk! and annoying in everything else. Other than his surprise appearance in 2011's The Descendants, he has turned to directing and has made a film called Fat Kid Rules the World. Is he a good director? Not really, though it's clear his heart is in the right place.
Listen to Lillard talk to Elvis Mitchell here.
Jacob Wysocki plays Troy, an overweight, unpopular and unhappy high school kid living with his authoritarian father and brother in Seattle. The mother of the family died some time ago. One day during a suicide attempt, his meets a pill head delinquent named Marcus who has dropped out of school. Marcus is currently the member of a popular local punk band with whom he is on terrible terms. With nowhere to go, Marcus manipulates Troy into doing favors for him with the promise that they will start a band together.
Troy doesn't play any instruments, but Marcus thinks he would be good on the drums. Hey, good exercise right? Naturally this will create a big conflict with his discipline obsessed ex-marine security guard father right? Well, yes and no. The setup is typical but to the story's merit, things don't go in the most predictable direction.
The father is played by Billy Campbell. Yes, Billy Campbell... Oh, you don't know who that is? He was The Rocketeer. Anyway the humorless controlling father who is normally the obstacle in stories like this, bound to show his heart -if he has one- at the end, winds up showing empathy for his son quite early in the film, acting more as a regulator than an antagonist. He knows that Marcus is bad news
but isn't stupid enough to ban his obviously depressed and friendless son from something with which he takes an interest -besides online role-playing games. He buys Troy a drum set and allows him to go to shows with Marcus in the agreement a strict curfew.
Overall, I really like the story this movie is telling. It's about good parenting and has the message that even the most downtrodden social rejects can find acceptance. So why don't I like the movie? Matthew Lillard doesn't seem to be a very natural director. Sure, he's dealing with a small budget production, but he makes a lot of annoying artistic choices. There are cheap comic music cues, stupid fantasy sequences designed to fake out the viewer, and some pretty dull cinematography -at times.
Lillard seems right at home during the punk-show scenes. He really captures the right kind of lighting and crammed atmosphere of those small venues. He also works very well with Wisocki as Troy whose performance is subtle and reserved as a real kid with desires and frustrations that are on the edge of eruption.
His major failure is through Matt O'Leary as Marcus who has an important and difficult role to play. Maybe O'Leary wasn't up to the task but I have seen him in movies before and have no reason to think he's bad. Marcus is untrustworthy and unlikeble right off the bat. People like Marcus in real life actually have a stronger degree of genuine charm. Even though they are screw-ups, they got to be in that band somehow. They went home with that beautiful girl somehow too. They use it to get what they want and show their carelessness when they're done. Lillard directs O'Leary creating a one-note performance of a stoned wise-cracking goofball at all times. The reason why I pick on Lillard for this young man's performance is because O'Leary seems to be channeling Lillard's acting style.
This is an honorable attempt of a "coming-of-age" film for young people who feel like freaks but it doesn't work like it should and felt to me like a waste of time.