03rd Jul2013

EIFF 2013: ‘Struck By Lightning’ Review

by Guest

Stars: Rebel Wilson, Chris Colfer, Dermot Mulroney, Scott Bailey, Allison Janney, Frank Noel | Written by Chris Colfer | Directed by Brian Dannelly

Struck-by-Lightning-EIFF

Review by Andrew MacArthur of The Peoples Movies

Glee’s Chris Colfer makes the jump from television to cinema with Struck By Lightning, which he adapts from his own book Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal. Despite small glimpses of well-handled humour, Colfer’s feature is essentially a self-serving vanity project that falls flat.

Colfer plays Carson Phillips, a high school student with a dream of going to Northwestern University and ultimately becoming the youngest editor of the New York Times. Phillips begins a literary magazine to increase his chances of fulfilling his dream, but negative response from his fellow students sees him turn to blackmail to make it a success.

The young actor deserves a huge amount of credit for having penned and starred in his own feature at the age of 22 – surely no easy feat. Unfortunately, Colfer makes everyone well aware of his supreme talents, with every other character in Struck By Lightning’s narrative serving as a pawn to make Carson Phillips look witty, amusing, or intelligent. This is chock full of tired characters from the alcoholic mother to the awkward, semi-present father and a host of high school clichés and stereotypes. Colfer acknowledges that these are stereotypes himself – yet does nothing to subvert or debunk them.

The main issue here is undoubtedly the character of Carson Phillips. The character comes across as smug, sarcastic, egotistical and just plain bitchy – as the narrative progresses it appears we are meant to grow closer and sympathise with Carson, which ultimately never happens. Colfer seems to use then character’s nastiness as a stepping board for the film’s humour – yet it ultimately feels mean spirited and unlikeable.

Rebel Wilson and Alison Janney’s quirky performances get the occasional laugh, but it is clear that these characters only exist as tools for Phillips to bounce-off and showcase his ‘witty’ demeanour. Fortunately, Polly Bergen brings a much-needed emotional edge to Struck By Lightning as Phillips’ Alzheimers suffering Grandma who frequently points out how nasty he has become.

Struck By Lightning is a flat, uninspiring high-school feature lead by one of the most unlikeable protagonists the genre has seen.

** 2/5

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One Response to “EIFF 2013: ‘Struck By Lightning’ Review”

  • Stephanie

    I disagree. And not only because I admire Colfer, but because I would very much like to have been a variety of Carson. Sure, he was a jerk and obnoxious; Colfer freely admits that. But when you grow up with a mother who often states she should have aborted you and who you have to take care of, as well as a father you’ve seen twice in the last 5 years, you get bitchy. Carson wants out so badly that he’s focused only on the future. His mother is trapped in the past (of her own volition). Neither of them experience the present, which is where Mallery’s focus is. Carson’s blackmail project forces him to actually look at his two-dimensional peers (who he has been dismissing as mindless) as people instead of just obstacles. If you actually read their pieces, you can see that’s not as true as it seemed. His attitude moderates through the course of the project and I think he would have been a better person. He chose to continue on, despite the betrayal by his mother. It actually took a force of nature to stop Carson, in the end. And his obnoxious comments and attitude DID make people think, as we see in their changed behaviors at the end. If someone (or something) touches your heart, then it’s a success. I count this movie as a success, because it has kept ME trying, despite the last 4 years of setbacks in my life.