Up until its second season, I was a major fan of Glee, in particular Chris Colfer. I didn’t follow the series to the very end but in the rare occasions that I would catch an episode, I think it was Kurt who really impressed me. In real life, Chris Colfer is just as talented as his television counterpart and despite his youth, he already wrote the novel Struck By Lightning which was the basis of this movie. And man, was I blown away. The film was shown on the Tribeca Film Festival and opened on a really limited release.
Synopsis: Ever since he was young, Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer) has always dreamed of being a Nobel Prize winner. Despite his family issues and dysfunctional childhood, he has always kept his eye on the prize, and that is to get into Northwestern, get his journalism degree and become the success that he has always wanted to be. But despite his efforts and good intentions, it seemed to fall short for an acceptance to Northwestern so he resorts to blackmailing the popular kids at school to help him achieve his dream.
Spoilers Ahead! The film starts out with a tragic scene straight off a bat and proceeds as a flashback narrated by Carson about how his high school life went about, leading to his end. I must say that in the same vein as Carson was struck by lightning, I was also struck by the rawness of this film.
While many movies have tackled the struggles of an unpopular kid, the hero of the piece, Carson, shrugs off his vulnerabilities and focuses on his future. Despite his pronouncements that he couldn’t care less about the people in his town, he cares too much and masks this with his acerbic humor and sarcasm. He shields his hurt with a defensive mechanism that could give a porcupine a run for its money and he was so real. I wanted to give him a hug 90 percent of the movie and wanted to shake everyone for being so self absorbed that they didn’t see this person for who he was.
I was really holding out hope that someone would see though his facade and I’m glad that it came from the unlikeliest of places and in the form of Rebel Wilson’s Mallerie, who stuck by Carson and helped him execute his plan to blackmail the leaders of all the cliches in school. I was glad that he found at least one friend in his lifetime because he was trying too hard to get out of his situation that he is forgetting to live his life. He needed some joy and I’m happy he found it with someone who truly believed in him.
My favorite part of the movie was when he was reading through the submissions by the jocks, the cheerleaders, the goths and the geeks — there was an honesty and simplicity in the words and it felt really relatable — like something a person would actually confess if he was to write a literary piece. Chris Colfer’s face when he was having a moment of realization about what his fellow students were experiencing on their own — it was very touching and self reflective. I liked how he came full circle when he was working on his literary magazine. More than showcase his own talents, he made it so that everyone’s voices would be heard and it was an amazing feat to accomplish.
The ending was a given but I was still rooting for Carson the whole time. I wanted people to understand him as he did them through their literary entries. I wanted him to see the ocean. I wanted him to get a shot at his dream but because the end of the line was drawn early on, there was a limit to whatever good that was coming his way. It was bittersweet but it was the best ending for someone like Carson.
All in all, Struck by Lightning offered a witty and entertaining take on high school cliches but also did justice to the darker side that came with it as well. It was honest. It was raw and had characters that had a lot of heart. While they were portrayed as stereotypes, Colfer’s writing added layers to them to make the characters that audiences would connect with. At times, the film was harsh but it made no apologies for it. It was sad and at the same time happy because it delivered a real hard look at reality that resonated with the audience. Rather than go with gimmick, Colfer chose to depict truth. And it still blows my mind that it all came from the mind and heart of someone so young. Bravo!