Fat Kid Rules the World (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★
“Fat Kid Rules the World,” based on the novel by K.L. Going, succeeds as a drama, with some comedic elements dispersed throughout, and is aimed toward teenagers and young adults because it does not result to pandering in order to get its points across. It is able to take a variety of topics—depression, punk music, unlikely friendship, a family in the process of moving on from a death, learning self-confidence—and weave them into one another to create a piece of work that offers not only a beautiful message but also one that is entertaining, amusing, and heartfelt.
Troy (Jacob Wysocki), a depressed and obese high school student, steps in front of an approaching bus with the hope of ending his unbearable sadness, but Marcus (Matt O’Leary) tackles him out of the way and the two crash onto the sidewalk. Although Troy denies that he had just attempted to commit suicide, Marcus sees through the lie and claims that Troy owes him a favor for the act of kindness. It can be paid if Troy agreed to be a drummer in a punk band despite the fact that Troy neither has interest in punk music nor playing drums.
The picture takes its time to allow each dramatic factor to unfold and so when they reach intersections, even though they may be different in tone or content, the package comes across as natural. Credit goes to the writers, Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Spearman, for their boldness and creativity to let each conflict shine on their own while taking into consideration that each element has its own pacing. In this seemingly simple and straightforward piece of work, not everything has to be ironed out completely.
Troy’s relationship with the people around him is given special emphasis. Most beautifully rendered is Troy’s relationship with his father (Billy Campbell), a former Marine who must raise two teenagers on his own. Campbell plays Mr. Billings as tough but fair and the performer, paired with intelligent and honest writing, ensures that we understand why he must be the way he is.
I enjoyed the scenes with Mr. Billings and his eldest son the most because in a lot of movies that contains a stern male figure, especially in coming-of-age films, the character is almost always one dimensional. We can usually predict every beat, every silence about to be broken, every glowering look. Here, we sympathize completely with the father, too. In a scene toward the end, Troy assures his father that it is not his fault that Troy gained so much weight during their family’s grieving process. Moments of such directness shine brightly because comedy is not used as a crutch to tell a truth that must be expressed with complete confidence and clarity.
Beauty among the human relationships is perhaps the greatest weapon of “Fat Kid Rules the World,” a highly watchable, endearing, smart independent picture directed by Matthew Lillard. If more writers and filmmakers understood that honesty ought not be dampened constantly by silliness, quirkiness, and platitudes, it is likely that more people would be interested in diving into smaller stories that are important in their own way.