Struck by Lightning (2012 film)
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (January 2013)|
|Struck by Lightning|
|Directed by||Brian Dannelly|
|Produced by||David Permut
|Written by||Chris Colfer|
|Music by||Jake Monaco|
|Editing by||Tia Nolan|
|Distributed by||Tribeca Film|
|Running time||84 minutes|
Struck by Lightning is a 2012 coming-of-age comedy-drama film written by and starring Chris Colfer, also based on his novel, and directed by Brian Dannelly. After high school senior Carson Phillips is struck by lightning and killed in his high-school parking lot, he recounts the way he blackmailed his classmates into contributing to his literary magazine.
The film had its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on April 21, 2012. The film is now available on Demand and was released theatrically on January 11, 2013. The film will be released on DVD and Bluray on May 21, 2013.
High school senior Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer) is randomly struck and killed by lightning. His mother Sheryl (Allison Janney) is notified of his death, and there is a memorial service. The now deceased Carson narrates the story of his life. As a child, he withdrew into writing in order to escape from his parent's destructive marriage. After his father left, he and Sheryl were all on their own. By the time Carson is seventeen, his mother resorts to seeking solace in drinking and prescription drugs. Carson himself is clearly disdained by practically everyone is in his school, most likely for his sarcastic and often rude demeanor. He desires to go to Northwestern University in order to one day become the youngest editor for The New Yorker, but so far is having limited success in making those dreams happen.
One day during a writer's club meeting, Malerie Baggs (Rebel Wilson), a fellow student who likes to videotape everything, comes in to get advice about her short stories. Carson tells her not to give up, and says that she can't find the ideas, the ideas have to find her. He later goes to a student council meeting run by head cheerleader Claire Matthews (Sarah Hyland). Claire, as well as everyone in student council, resort to ignoring him due to his constant objections to their ideas. While Sheryl is picking up several prescriptions, she makes idle small talk with the cheerful new pharmacist April (Christina Hendricks), who is six months pregnant. Carson also visits his grandmother (Polly Bergen), the first person who encouraged his writing, but she doesn't know who he is due to Alzheimer's disease. She tells him her grandson used to be so happy and full of life, but was now his own personal rain cloud. At home, an intoxicated Sheryl marvels that Carson is young enough to make something out of his life. April talks to Carson's father Neal (Dermot Mulroney) about her earlier encounter with Sheryl. Neal tells her not to worry about what other people do, and that their baby will be brought into the world by two loving, sane parents.
As Carson is finishing up the school paper late at night, he accidentally catches wealthy student Nicholas Forbes (Carter Jenkins) and flamboyant drama club president Scott Thomas (Graham Rogers) making out in a bathroom stall. Nicholas, horrified, begs Carson not to tell anyone since his rich family would disapprove of his homosexuality. Carson agrees on the condition that they will contribute to the paper until they both graduate. April and Neal visit Neal's lawyer to straighten out some legal issues. April, who had no knowledge about Carson or Sheryl, storms out when she learns Neal is still legally married. Carson's guidance counselor (Angela Kinsey) informs him that one way to improve his chances of getting into Northwestern is to submit a literary magazine in order to show he can inspire others to write. He gets permission to start the magazine from his conservative principal (Brad William Henke), but has to find the necessary funds on his own. After getting an unexpected call from Neal, Sheryl races to clean herself up. During their short meeting, she begrudgingly signs the divorce papers, and then goes to see her doctor. He advises giving Carson anti-depressants, claiming they would improve his mood, and therefore make him less eager to leave for college.
When she brings up the subject during dinner, Carson quickly rebuffs her, saying that people today would rather use drugs than actually solve their problems. Sheryl tells him that during much of his childhood, he was unknowingly on ADHD medication. Despite this, Carson agrees to take the anti-depressants in exchange for the $300 he needs to print the magazine. He announces at a school assembly that all entries will be taken, but later finds the submission box filled with nothing but trash. Malorie comforts him by using Nicholas and Scott as examples of how he can persuade others into caring about writing. Carson tells her the real reason behind their participation in the paper, and she reveals that she caught Claire having sex with Coach Walker (Charlie Finn), who is also the brother of her boyfriend, Justin (Robbie Amell). Malorie goes on to say how everyone in their school probably has an embarrassing secret that they wouldn't want to get out.
Sheryl has another run-in with April when April recognizes Carson's name on the anti-depressant prescription. She then comes home to Neal and demands to meet his son. During the homecoming parade, Carson is forced to pull the writer's club float himself after the cheerleaders take the car they were assigned. Feeling more humiliated than ever, Carson decides to blackmail several of his peers into writing for the literary magazine. He tricks yearbook president Remy Baker (Allie Grant) into sending him a dirty picture that could ruin her reputation. Together, he and Malerie blackmail fellow school paper members Dwayne (Matt Prokop) for bringing marijuana to school, and goth girl Vicki (Ashley Rickards) for taking BDSM-style pictures that her church-going parents would disapprove of. Carson additionally discovers that supposed foreign exchange student Emilio (Robert Aguire) is from San Diego, knows only rudimentary Spanish, and is using his faux-exotic charm to seduce the principal's secretary.
During a meeting with the other students and Coach Walker, Carson extorts agreements that everyone must offer something to put in the magazine if they want their secrets to stay quiet. Carson also tells Claire and Coach Walker that they must have each cheerleader and football player submit something as well, as a way to make the issue more popular among the student body. Those who agreed write something that reflects the personal issues they are currently dealing with. Nicholas writes a poem expressing how money won't get in the way of his feelings for Scott, Justin writes an essay about why he loves football so much, and Remy writes a short story about her parents' financial difficulties. When Claire submits her piece, she berates Carson for acting so superior to them just because he knows he can escape to a better life. Carson tells Claire that he remembers back in second grade how she badly wanted to be a ballerina, but for whatever the reason decided she was not good enough. Claire reveals that when she revealed that she wanted to be a ballerina, the other kids laughed at her, however, Carson reminds her that he didn't, because he believed in her.
After school, Carson gets an unexpected call from his father. Neal tells him about April, the baby, and how he wants them to get together soon. When he has dinner with Neal and April, Carson realizes that his father is trying to make himself sound like he has been more present in Carson's life, which quickly results into an argument. Neal defends his decision to leave since Sheryl was unstable, but Carson retorts that leaving him alone with her was not the right decision, and storms out. Later, during a student council meeting with the principal, Carson opposes a ban on clothing logos in school. As punishment, the principal revokes all off-campus privileges for students. Everyone else claims the entire school will actually hate Carson for what he did, but he defends himself by saying that they all would rather keep quiet than stand up for themselves.
Sheryl tells April that she knows she looks like some pathetic divorcee who refuses to get on with her life. She explains that she gave her husband everything, and was therefore left with nothing when he decided she wasn't enough for him. Just like April, Sheryl had a kid to keep him around, but that didn't change anything. Meanwhile, Carson completes the literary magazine, but it flops due to the backlash from the student body. Carson also learns that he was accepted into Northwestern, but since he never confirmed his admission, he must wait to reapply and go to community college in the meantime. Carson assumes his letter was lost in the mail, but after telling his mother, Sheryl admits she threw away his acceptance letter to protect him from the reality that his dreams will probably never come true.
While Carson and Malerie pack up the unread literary magazines, Carson asks her why she likes to film everything. Malerie replies that "It doesn't matter if you're stuck in the past or if you're trying to forget the past, what matters is what you do in the present." As Malerie is leaving, she asks Carson if he thinks they're friends. He says they're best friends. Carson suddenly decides that there's one story left to write; his own. His voice-over explains how he finally realized that, despite everything he went through, he successfully got the other students to write for the literary magazine, so for the first time in his life, he was truly happy. He is then shown going outside as the thunder starts.
It takes over three days for people to find Carson's body. Sheryl repeatedly calls his phone after the police come, saying she just needs to know he's okay. Many people, including the principal and the students who hated him, come to the funeral. It's shown that Carson did leave an impression on everyone he knew. Malerie takes over as president of the writers' club, while Sheryl visits her mother in assisted care.
- Chris Colfer as Carson Phillips, the main protagonist of the film and the head of the school's writing club. He is killed when he is struck by lightning in the opening scene. He is disliked, belittled and insulted by his peers, mostly for his sarcastic and dry personality that he gained after his parents' divorce. However, despite his constant sarcasm and bitterness, Carson is also seen as a very caring individual and puts who he loves first, such as being slightly forgiving and sympathetic towards Claire, often visiting his grandmother in the assisted living home, giving Malory advice about her short stories, and covering his mother with a blanket when he sees her passed out on the couch.
- Allison Janney as Sheryl Phillips, Carson's alcoholic and pill-popping single mother who doesn't want him to leave home.
- Christina Hendricks as April, the pregnant fiancée of Carson's father, Neal. She goes to Carson's funeral, but has apparently broken up with Neal.
- Sarah Hyland as Claire Mathews, the bitchy head cheerleader, as well as the class president, who is having sex with her boyfriend's brother, the school football coach. It is later on revealed that the only reason for her bitchy behavior is because she gave up on her dreams of becoming a professional dancer, because she got laughed at by her second grade class, with Carson as the only exception. In the end, it's revealed that she took Carson's advice into consideration for ideas about the school prom.
- Carter Jenkins as Nicholas Forbes, a wealthy closeted gay student who is secretly involved with Scott Thomas.
- Brad Henke as Principal Gifford, the school principal with anger management issues.
- Rebel Wilson as Malerie Baggs, Carson's best friend and partner-in-crime. She likes to videotape everything in order to preserve her memories of high school.
- Angela Kinsey as Ms. Sharpton, the school's clueless guidance counselor.
- Polly Bergen as Grandma, Carson's grandmother who's suffering from Alzheimer's.
- Dermot Mulroney as Neal Phillips, Carson's absent father.
- Allie Grant as Remy Baker, the high-strung editor of the school yearbook.
- Ashley Rickards as Vicki Jordan, an apathetic goth girl.
- Robbie Amell as Justin Walker, the meat-head captain of the football team.
- Charlie Finn as Coach Colin Walker, the coach of the school's football team and Justin's older brother.
- Roberto Aguire as Emilio Lopez, supposedly a foreign exchange student from El Salvador, but he is actually from San Diego and only knows basic Spanish.
- Matt Prokop as Dwayne Michaels, the school's resident pothead.
- Graham Rogers as Scott Thomas, the flamboyant drama club president. Like Carson, he believes he is destined to do very big things in his life. By the end of the film, he and Nicholas are seen sitting together at Carson's funeral.
- Adam Kolkin as Young Carson Phillips.
- Taylor Clarke-Pepper as Dog Walker (uncredited)
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B−, writing, "After his lofty aspirations to write for The New Yorker are cut painlessly and semi-amusingly short by a freak encounter with lightning, Carson looks back on his so-called life with the gently rueful wisdom that is frequently granted young dead people in flashback tales like this one. The message? Seize the day, kids. There are some real stresses in the fellow's life, many caused by his mess of a drunken single mom (an affecting Allison Janney)."
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- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (January 18, 2013). "Struck by Lightning". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.): 62.
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