Adapted from the novel by K.L. Going, Matthew Lillard’s directorial debut Fat Kid Rules the World aims to provide a more realistic look at the complexities of youth. It conveys the universal theme of finding one’s own path, while subtly avoiding several of the conventions commonly found in teen-centric coming-of-age tales. The film tells the story of 17 year-old overweight outcast Troy Billings (Jacob Wysocki). He spends most of his time playing online games in his room when not battling suicidal thoughts. In Troy’s eyes there is not much in life really worth living for.
Frankly life has not been the same since Troy’s mother passed. Convinced it is time to end it all, Troy’s suicide attempt is inadvertently foiled by a local high school dropout Marcus (Matt O’Leary). The unlikely pair soon strike up a friendship that results in Marcus inviting Troy, who has never played an instrument, to be the drummer in a punk band he is forming. As their bond grows stronger, both Troy and Marcus are forced to confront the issues in each of their lives that they can no longer runaway from.
Lillard trusts his audience enough to not divulge every single detail. He leaves the possibility of a love connection between Troy and Isobel (Lili Simmons) ambiguous. Similar to his approach to storytelling, Matthew Lillard allows his actors to breathe and flourish in a natural way. Jacob Wysocki is fantastic in the role of Troy. He nicely balances both the insecurities and growing confidence that Troy struggles with over the course of the film. Billy Campbell provides one of his best performances in years in the role of Troy’s ex-navy father. He struggles to find common ground with his son while never losing site of his responsibilities as a parent.
Though an enjoyable indie film, Fat Kid Rules the World is not without its flaws. The most notable being the handling of Marcus’ drug addiction in the latter half of the film. Also, the character of Isobel could have been explored in greater detail as well. Still, despite these minor missteps Fat Kid Rules the World is a promising directorial debut from Lillard. The timeless themes mixed with strong performances make it appeal to the outsider that has resided in us all at one point or another in our youth.
Fat Kid Rules the World is currently streaming on Netflix in both Canada and the USA