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Grimes & Rowe Watch a Movie: Struck by Lightning

By Storycarnivores @storycarnivores

-Struck-by-Lightning-Posters-chris-colfer-30737724-500-759Title: Struck by Lightning
Directed by: Brian Dannelly
Distributed by: Tribeca Film
Release Date: January 11, 2013
Rated: PG-13

Synopsis: After being struck and killed by lightning, a young man recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine. (Via IMDB)

Brian: Struck by Lightning was everything I hoped it would be. I’ve been a fan of Chris Colfer’s for three years now and have loved watching him grow as both an actor and a writer. He was one of the best parts of Glee in the first few seasons (now he’s THE reason to still watch the show), and stood out so much in the ensemble that he was nominated for an Emmy two years in a row. But Colfer always wanted to be a writer, too, and he’s slowly becoming a triple threat as an actor, a screenwriter, and a novelist. Shaunta and I reviewed his debut novel The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell last July, which I really enjoyed (more than Shaunta), and now finally coming out is his first movie, one that he’s the star of and that he penned himself. Now I love Chris Colfer, so I go into any project of his with a little bias, but I would tell you if something he did was crap (Sandra Bullock is my all-time favorite and I still recognized All About Steve as one of the biggest disasters of 2009!). Struck by Lightning, which he’s also written a young adult novel for, is a total blast. It’s funny, moving, insightful. It reminded me of some of the sharp, biting comedies we got in the 90′s, like Clueless and Election. Chris Colfer has a knack for creating memorable dialog and deeply flawed, interesting characters. He obviously gets high school! And Brian Dannelly, who directed the great Saved from 2004, does a solid job telling Colfer’s story, and giving his film a superb cast of both old and familiar faces.

Shaunta: Struck By Lightening is basically a story about a boy who truly believes that he is smarter than literally everyone he meets, blackmailing a couple of gay kids, a girl who is being statutorily raped by a teacher, a girl he coerced into sending him naked pictures, and a few others into writing stories for a literary magazine so that he can get into Northwestern. I went into this movie expecting to love it. Because I love Chris Colfer, and I also really love Rebel Wilson. I knew as soon as the movie opened that I was going to have problems, because apparently the main character is telling the story from–Heaven? Hell? I didn’t find the comedy biting or even that funny. How in the world did the people behind this film manage to make even Rebel Wilson non-funny? I have no idea. But, basically, I couldn’t get passed my dislike of the main character. He complained that no one liked him, but then spent the whole movie showing why they didn’t.


Brian: Any movie about a struggling writer I identify with, especially a writer who’s trying to get into the college of his choice (I’m finishing my application process as we speak!), so I was taken with this story from minute one. Colfer plays Carson Phillips, a high school senior who wants, who needs, to get out of his small town and make something of his life. His dream is to work for The New Yorker, but at the moment, he’s busy trying to write enough material himself to create his monthly high school newspaper. He’s trying to get into Northwestern but learns that editing a high school paper and managing the writing club isn’t enough; he has to start a literary journal. But the only way he can get students to contribute… is to blackmail them. Oh, and he also dies at the end, in a scene where all I could think was, “Shaunta ain’t gonna like this…” (Don’t worry, he dies in the opening scene, this isn’t a spoiler!) What did I love about this movie? Colfer’s writing makes for one of the most enjoyable, fast-moving film comedy experiences I’ve had a in a long time; this movie just zips on by. The casting is fantastic, especially for a smaller-scale movie like this one. Having Colfer in nearly every scene of a movie is all we really need, but Dannelly adds actors like Rebel Wilson, Christina Hendricks, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Hyland (a stand-out!), Polly Bergen, and an AMAZING Allison Janney. The characters all sparkle with life, even some of the minor high school students, who could’ve been written as walking cliches but come to life in unexpected ways. The friendship between Colfer and Wilson works beautifully, and the sour ending, which some may have a problem with, I thought capped off this nice blending of comedy and drama beautifully.

Shaunta: One thing I love about Brian is that we have such a great time disagreeing about some things. This was definitely not one of the best movies I’ve seen lately. It had too many problems. I can’t even tell you what they are without spoiling the movie. But, I’ll just say that the whole premise of the movie unravels in the end and I was left with this feeling of . . . WTF? I did find most of the characters as walking cliches. I also had a problem with how easily the circumstances for blackmail come along. And that there are no consequences for the main character, beyond an accidental death. And then there is the whole problem of this kid, who is supposed to be the smartest person in his town, needing to rely on all those stupid people for his future. I don’t know. Just, meh. I didn’t enjoy this movie.


Brian: My one issue with the film was the handling of Carson Phillips’ divorced parents Sheryl (Allison Janney) and Neal (Dermot Mulroney). Of course his parents needed to be shits, because the more he’s kicked down, the harder he needs to try to succeed, but Colfer goes one step too far in making them literally the MOST vile, disrespectful, troubling parents I’ve ever seen in a movie, to the point where I was getting exceedingly irritated. I think both actors do a good job, and Janney, especially, is fantastic. Maybe it’s because Janney does such a great job playing the world’s worst mother that her character started to bother me after awhile, but by the second half I just started getting angry. She tells her son, on more than one occasion, that she wished he had been aborted. She tells him she drugged him when he was a kid without his knowledge. She tells him, time and time again, to give up on his dreams and come to terms with the fact that nothing will become of him. And then toward the end, she does something regarding his future that is so totally wrong in every way imaginable I screamed in defiance! She’s written almost TOO evil, so exorbitantly awful that in the end it was hard for even the most gifted of actresses to humanize her. And the dad isn’t any better. He essentially ignores his son for five years, then invites him over for dinner because his new fiancee wants to meet him. He’s a total ass, too, berating his son for never playing sports, then telling his pregnant fiancee that maybe his next child will be someone worth loving. What?!? These aren’t bad parents. They’re the worst parents in the history of the world. This aspect of the movie bugged me, but otherwise, I really enjoyed Struck by Lightning! It’s the kind of fun, quirky comedy I came to expect in the 90′s but never really get these days. Colfer did a great job, and I can’t wait to see what he does next!

Shaunta: Allison Janney was the one bright spot in this movie for me, although I agree that she was written too over the top. I think I loved her so much, because her performance here reminded me so much of her performance in Juno, which is one of my favorite movies. Like, what if the mom from Juno got divorced and completely lost it? Watch Struck By Lightening to find out! Over all, my dislike for the main character and the lack of funny for even my favorite funny actress (Rebel Wilson) made this movie less than great for me. I do like the visual of Brian screaming in defiance!

Brian: This is a fun, quirky indie comedy. My recommendation? Check it out!

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