I watched a screening of Struck by Lightning again, this time in a small cinema at the Provincetown International Film Fesitval in Provincetown, MA. The screening was the second of two at the festival, and the audience members were a mix of Chris Colfer fans and festival goers, as far as I could tell. Unlike the screening at Tribeca (the premiere), this had a far more sedate (and older) crowd. There was far less laughter and no squees of excitement. I did feel as if the audience was as fully engaged, however, and there were some questions during the low-key q&a with Brian Dannelly after the screening (Chris Colfer and other cast members were not in attendance) that had to do with the way in which the movie was filmed ($1 million dollar budget, 26 day shoot, quite a bit of improvisation) and how the movie was filmed (Brian was sent the script, was initially skeptical but after reading it and meeting with Chris he knew this was a film he could feel good about directing), though not about casting choices, per se.
Since I'd seen the movie, and knew the plot and the funny lines, I was watching more intently this time, focusing on the characters/characterizations/arc. One criticism I'd had during my first viewing was that the secondary characters were not given enough screen time. I don't really feel that way anymore. When the yearbook editor, Remy, says that she feels that they are all high school stereotypes, that's true, in a way. They are this generation's The Breakfast Club. But two characters do change. Malerie, his best friend, gains confidence while helping Carson see that it is important to live in the moment, something she does through her video cam, and something Carson can learn through his writing and simply being present. The head cheerleader and student council president, Claire, probably does as well. Carson calls Claire out on on her refusal to take chances by accepting the status quo, She hasn't pursued a dream of becoming a ballerina. Carson reminds her that *someone* has to win the Nobel Peace Prize and *someone* has become a ballerina. She can be the ballerina, leave town, move on with her life. I suspect she does. It's up to the others to make that choice; some will, some won't.
In this viewing, I really felt Carson's rage, when he screamed at the Student Council for not caring enough about themselves to challenge the principal's ignorance. It's not just an exercise in futility; their indifference genuinely pains him. I felt sucker punched when Carson confronted his mother about not getting into Northwestern because she threw away his acceptance letter. And I felt his satisfaction at knowing that he'd completed the story about taking flight he'd started out writing as a young boy. He finished the story and published it in his magazine. If no one read it, well, at least his story had come full circle. The film is clear about this: this journey is most important, the destination less so. While I still wish that Carson *had* been able to go to Northwestern, because he had such potential, at least he died content and hopefully his mother is able to get her life in order after seeing how Carson had been able to do so. Allison Janney is a magnificent Sheryl Phillips, but I think I overlooked Dermot Mulroney's quiet performance as Carson's father. Neal is a man who continues to make mistakes with a shrug. He doesn't take responsibility and sees no reason to change. One hopes that his fiance, April, brilliantly portrayed by Christina Hendricks, is able to raise her baby with dignity with or without her fiance. Neal and Sheryl's parenting clearly shaped Carson's view of the world, his attitudes, his actions. One hopes that April can do better.
It will be really interesting to see how the distributor plans to market the film. It's more dark than comedy beginning at the half-way point of the film and, to me, it's more than a coming-of-age movie. It's about family dynamics, about resolve, contentment, and how everything matters in relationships, so I hope the movie isn't just targeted for teenagers. Clearly Chris Colfer knows how to write from the perspective of a 17-year-old, but also from that of a 40-year-old, and I would like to think older audiences could be as affected by this movie as younger ones.