Let me start by saying that I have no experience writing reviews (I’ve been trying and failing to write this for the past month).
In fact, I rarely even read reviews unless it’s a quick skim of the summary on Rotten Tomatoes to decide whether I should see a movie in theaters (and I’ll be honest, I usually just look at the “freshness” percentage).
So when asked to review Chris Colfer’s “Struck By Lightning,” I knew (and was told) that it was because of one thing only: my experience on the school’s literary magazine, The Glass Knife.
With the synopsis advertising a movie about a high-school senior creating a literary magazine, it made perfect sense for the reporter who happens to also be on the literary magazine staff to review that movie.
However, although “Struck By Lightning”’s main plot centers around the creation of a literary magazine, there was little that my experience added to the movie. In fact, it probably only contributed to my dislike of the film.
“Lightning” centers on sardonic high-school senior Carson Phillips (portrayed by TV show “Glee’s” star Colfer), who is in the midst of a rather uneventful day when a rain cloud suddenly spurts a lightning bolt and kills him on the spot.
Throughout the movie, Dead Carson narrates his life as an unseen force. He throws in his own two cents about how awful his funeral is and, in general, offers at least one snide remark every few minutes.
As Dead Carson retells the tale, he reflects on how he was in the midst of the seemingly endless voyage called “The College Admissions Process” and managed to surpass his own (admittedly ditzy) college counselor when it came to researching and applying to schools.
Carson is an interesting (and not-quite fitting) mix between typical Overachieving Dreamer Stuck in a Small Town and Cynical and Angsty Teenager Who Just Wants to Leave.
In need of an extra “pop” for his application, he is advised to create a literary magazine. With only one other member of the unofficial magazine and no help from faculty, Carson takes the project on.
However, because of the natural behavior of high schoolers, there is a stunning lack of submissions. Fearing that the absence of that “pop “threatens his chances of getting into Northwestern, Carson decides to give his classmates a push in the right direction, initiating his grand plan, “Clovergate.”
The plan is simple: use all the secrets Carson has amassed to blackmail classmates into submitting.
However, it doesn’t take much to spot that the plan is, in addition to being morally ambiguous at best, frankly ridiculous. First, am I the only one who thinks that it’s highly unlikely that the literary magazine staff would hold all the cards when it came to gossip and secrets?
Not only this, but I’m pretty sure that the possibility of getting suspended from school proves a far riskier chance of not getting accepted to college than not creating a literary magazine.
As any senior can attest, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the college admissions process. Devoting an entire high-school career to “making a mark” and “standing out” to colleges tends to make seniors more than a bit stir-crazy.
But annoyance at college applications rarely results in participating in full-blown coercion.
As a character, Carson lacks in a basic way: his entire purpose throughout the movie revolves around getting into Northwestern, and, although there is a revelation about potential in oneself, the supposedly tragic ending is unsatisfactory.
Rather than fully developing the character’s complexity, effort is put into subplots that are mediocrely supplemented at best and stretch the movie thin (such as dealing with an estranged father and a drug addict mother).
In a roundtable interview Colfer answered questions from seniors about the movie and his role in its creation.
He said that he first had the idea in high school.
“I was tired of the movies that were geared towards our audience that I didn’t relate to. They were always about the same people—the jocks, the cheerleaders, the people who wanted to be them—and I got really frustrated,” Colfer said.
“I really wanted to see a movie about kids who felt like us—that had dreams and goals—and the crap they had to deal with for having the audacity to have those dreams and goals.”