While perusing Kickstarter projects, I discovered the project for the film Fat Kid Rules the World, and was immediately intrigued by director Matthew Lillard’s pitch:
I first stumbled across FAT KID RULES THE WORLD when I was hired to record the audio version of KL Going’s award winning novel. The book blew me away. It was funny and true, and it told the story of a lost kid – Troy Billings, alienated and alone – who finds his purpose in life through the magic of punk rock music. The book rocked my world. It was crazy! It spoke to me, in a deep way because I had been my own version of Troy Billings in high school. I was lost and an outcast and didn’t really fit in anywhere… that is until I found acting, which pretty much changed my life forever. After I read the book I knew I had to tell THIS story. I made this movie for everyone who has ever felt like they just didn’t belong… the misfits, the outcasts. The kids that are lost… this movie is for you!
I knew exactly what Lillard was talking about. And it made me think about how it won’t be long before my son is dealing with the same problems. So I requested a review copy of Fat Kid Rules the World. Read on for my review.
Fat Kid Rules the World (2012, Whitewater Films)
Troy Billings is fat. His appearance, natural shyness and awkwardness leave Troy broadly ostracized. He fantasizes about suicide, and at the beginning of the film actually steps in front of a bus. That’s how he meets Marcus, who tackles Troy out of the bus’ path, saving his life.
Marcus is a punk rock guitar player, who alternately charms, manipulates and bullies Troy into agreeing to be the drummer in a punk rock band. Troy has never played an instrument, but that doesn’t dim Marcus’ enthusiasm. Through Marcus, Troy is introduced to the local punk rock scene, and though he feels uncomfortable and awkward in it, he discovers that he likes it.
Troy engages himself more and more in drumming, while Marcus continues on a self-destructive spiral. Without giving anything away, the film ends on the story’s climax; there’s no denouement to speak of. It leaves open whether the story ends the schmaltzy Hollywood way, or the less forgiving real-world way.
There were many points in this film that made me cringe – not because it was bad, but because of how unhesitatingly honest it was. Troy’s problems are real, and they’re neither sugarcoated to dull them nor exaggerated to make them more brutal. His isolation, loneliness and battered self-worth are harsh only in how realistically they’re portrayed. Troy is one of the easiest characters to empathize with I’ve ever seen in a film. Credit for that goes to Jacob Wysocki, whose portrayal of Troy stood out amongst a fine cast.
Also excellent was Billy Campbell as Troy’s father Mr. Billings, an ex-Marine trying to raise two teenage boys not long after his wife’s death. In the sudden absence of the family unit they’d known, Mr. Billings falls back on rigid discipline in his parenting, with mixed results. He makes honest decisions – some are good, some are bad, but there’s never a doubt that he truly wants what’s best for his sons. He struggles to be a good, strong father to them because he knows they need it in the wake of their mother’s death; he tries to support and nurture them but is awkward at it despite being a remarkably compassionate man, and more often than not falls back on discipline. Mr. Billings’ emptiness at the loss of his wife is still very raw, and Campbell made that palpable and real.
Fat Kid Rules the World is inherently a coming-of-age story. Troy has to grow up and take chances, has to dare to pursue something important to him. Whether he succeeds is open to interpretation, but a good coming-of-age story is all about the journey from youth to adulthood. In this, Fat Kid Rules the World is enormously successful. Troy works through his grief, challenges authority, and enters new and undiscovered realms both physical and emotional. Regardless of whether he “succeeds,” Troy ultimately ends up triumphant.
Director Matthew Lillard is trying to raise funds to bring the film to theaters across the United States. If you want to see an excellent, powerful film, consider backing the Kickstarter for a copy or to help bring it to your local theater. The Kickstarter for Fat Kid Rules the World runs until 3:00 AM EDT on Saturday, June 16.