I know what you’re thinking, that this crown belongs to Beasts of the Southern Wild, and you may be right, but I haven’t seen that yet and so right now I’m sticking to my guns when I claim that Matthew Lillard’s directorial debut, Fat Kid Rules the World, is the indie gem of the year.
A comedy with soul and based off K.L. Going’s acclaimed novel, Fat Kid Rules the World is a story about a depressed and suicidal boy named Troy (Jacob Wysocki-Terri) who, one day, is saved by a homeless teenage dropout, named Marcus (Matt O’Leary). Upon a second encounter, Marcus, in his charismatic way, recruits Troy to be the drummer in his newly formed punk rock band. As the crackpot duo’s relationship begins to form, it becomes apparent that Marcus/punk rock might just be the thing that saves Troy’s life and that Troy just might be the person that saves Marcus’ self-destructive soul.
There’s a reason Matthew Lillard’s film won the audience award at SXSW this year. He has made a film that’s genuinely entertaining and chock full of heart. Though some of the comedy might be dark, it’ll make anyone laugh because of its simplicity and occasional over the top style. The quick day dream sequences are a real treat. As for the heart, anyone that’s ever felt like an outcast, even for a second, will find a way to relate to the story and that’s the idea that grabs you by the throat and pulls you into the movie. Tack on the relationship drama that Marcus causes as he gradually spirals out of control and you’ve got yourself a picture that asks not only the characters a lot of questions, but the audience as well in regards to their response to the situation they see Troy and his family facing.
During his passionate Q&A, Matthew hit the nail on the head when he described who this movie was for. It was “made for kids who are lost in the world” and to tell them that all good things come in time, something that I believe and can attest to. Troy’s life was difficult because he took his mother’s death really hard and it seemed like his father was always pushing him to do things he didn’t want to do and his brother would always tease him. He would play Warcraft-like games and had no friends at school, the ones who knew him alienated him upon entering the hell of high school. But good things come to those that wait, even if they come in the form of a Kurt Cobain looking punk rocker, and everyone finds what makes them happy. In the case of Troy, it’s drumming and the culture of punk rock.
While the story is most certainly grade A and the script is solid, what truly makes the movie shine is the way the cast translates the script to the screen. Jacob Wysocki does an outstanding job of playing the innocent and shunned overweight geek attempting to go punk while Matt O’Leary is fearless in his approach to being an “unacceptably dirty” but charismatic homeless man that represents everything the punk lifestyle stands for. But I can’t forget to mention Billy Campbell, the actor who played Troy’s father, Mr. Billings, and gave the story its third and most important dimension as the guy stuck in between Troy’s misery and honest lifestyle and his newfound love of punk rock/drumming and a culture that praises bad decisions. Campbell’s role was crucial to the story and his role as Mr. Billings might have been my favorite of the film. These performances are the reasons why you are pulled into the story and why you care about the characters from the get-go.
It may not be a perfect film but I have nothing bad to say about Fat Kid Rules the World, I just hope that word spreads about this film because it most certainly is one that people should see from both an emotional/moral perspective as well as from the entertainment perspective. Lillard has done an outstanding job with his debut feature and I hope he can find another great piece of subject matter like fat kids and punk rock that he can put his passion into to create another wonderful piece of indie cinema. With an awesome score from Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, a comical and touching story to tell, and kick ass performances from its leads, Fat Kid Rules sthe World has ended up becoming one of my favorite films of the year and a must-see for those looking for a great random movie to watch.
Rating: An honestly entertaining, heartwarming and passionate film that’ll leave you with a positive message (8.3/10)