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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

SIFF 2012 Review: Fat Kid Rules the World

I dug Fat Kid Rules the World a lot. I went into this screening thinking, “Oh, great. Jacob Lysocki’s playing a fat high school student again? And directed by Shaggy?” Aza Jacobs Terri was a great little film, in no small part due to Wysocki’s subtly wrenching performance as the depressed, overweight teen. So why make a movie that immediately evokes that by casting the same actor in a similar setting? But in all fairness, this is a completely different story, both in plot and tone, and Wysocki here is portraying a completely different, but equally nuanced fat kid. And Lillard, as it turns out, isn’t a half-bad director. Actually, he’s pretty darn good.

The kid here, Troy, wasn’t always a fat, unhappy kid. Once he was just a normal, happy, not-fat kid who loved his mom and dad and younger brother, Dayle (Dylan Arnold). Then his mom got sick and died, and Dayle got sad and depressed and took refuge in being a super-jock-future-pro-athelete-or-soldier type, excelling in every sport, shooting hoops with dad, and generally filling the void with trophies and medals and ribbons. Troy, on the other hand, got sad and depressed and self-medicated with food until he morphed into the fat, unhappy boy contemplating suicide by city bus when the movie opens. But Troy is saved by Marcus (Matt O’Leary), an equally bereft boy, a talented musician who looks a bit like the worn out ghost of Kurt Cobain. Certainly, he’s weary and wise beyond his years, the result of addictions of his own. And like Troy, he lost his mother, in his case, when she married a tough guy who kicked Marcus out of the house because of his addiction. These two lost, grieving, motherless boys, once they find each other, become the catalysts for each others’ change in sometimes mundane ways made quite remarkable through Lillard’s confident direction of his talented actors. Michelle Witten’s tight, snappy editing moves things along at a brisk pace, with very little in the way of story lag time to drag things down.

The real strength of Fat Kid, though, is Billy Campbell as Troy’s dad, Mr. Billings. He’s a stern dude, ex-military, so tightly buttoned he looks like he might explode. His mouth, compressed into a thin line from years of holding back grief, is almost expressionless, while the rest of his face is a study in anguish, carved in granite. This makes it so much more poignant when we get, for the first time, that this dad is not quite who we thought he was when first we met him; or rather he is, but he’s also something more. He reminds me, in a way, of the dad from Kat Candler’s excellent short film, Hellion (which also played at SIFF), but because we get to spend more time with Mr. Billings, we have the opportunity to peel back his layers and get to know him.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon