What do you call a twenty-two year old actor, singer, New York Times Bestselling Author, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential in 2011, and the writer and producer of his very own film for the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival?
A creative genius.
Carson practically hates his life: his mother is a defeatist bum who lives off her inheritance, his favorite grandmother can’t remember him anymore, his dad left them, his high school is filled with thick-headed pricks, and nobody just gets him. His only way of escaping his life is through writing, and hopes to one day become a famous journalist for the New Yorker and other publications. He carefully builds his college résumé to get into his dream college, Northwestern University, and the only way to do that is to blackmail Clover High’s royalty into contributing to a literary magazine he hopes to publish.
And the catch? Carson dies at the beginning of the film, and this entire story is a flashback, narrated by Carson himself from the grave.
Struck By Lightning holds a simple plot, but is so filled with incredibly witty dialogue and such inspired messages that Carson’s entire account makes for a beautiful story in itself. Carson hates his high school, and everyone in it, that SBL is the anthem of every out-of-place teen who just wants to get out, break free, and do something more with their lives. SBL is the story of every dreamer, who knows he shouldn’t settle for less than the highest.
Struck By Lightning is everything we’ve always wanted to tell people in high school, but couldn’t.
High school: society’s bright idea to put all their aggressive, self-righteous, pubescent, naïve youth to torment and emotionally scar each other–for life.
Struck By Lightning is about Carson Phillips, and his immense amount of back-sass.
Casting, Characters and Yearbook-style Superlatives
Best Death: Chris Colfer as Carson Phillips
We’ve already been through this one, but to add to the commentary, Chris Colfer is perfect when it comes to playing a smart-ass. Maybe it’s because he actually is?
“The minute you walked into this school, you were labeled as high school royalty. And you would rather maintain that label than–heaven forbid–stand up for yourselves. But high school ends. And for your sakes, I hope you guys aren’t the walking clichés everyone thinks you are, because life is going to walk all over you, and it’s gonna bite you in the ass!”
I think what makes Struck By Lightning such a compelling story and a believable film is that Chris Colfer has a lot of similarities with the character he created and portrayed. Chris was from Clovis, California. Carson was from Clover. Colfer was also in speech, debate, drama, and was the president of the Writers’ Club, and the editor of the school’s literary magazine, just like Carson Phillips. He was also a victim of bullying, and was often told that he was never going to make it big anywhere. In a way, Colfer shares his life’s story through Carson, and uses this film to send the message to his young viewers–a message of hope, to always keep reaching for the dream, and never let anyone or anything stop you.
Best at Table Tennis: Rebel Wilson as Malerie Baggs
We know Rebel from films like Bridesmaids or Pitch Perfect as an annoying and self-righteous loser. For once, here, Rebel plays Carson’s most loyal companion, Malerie Baggs, who might be the only person in the entirety of Clover High that actually wants to be in The Chronicle.
Malerie likes to carry a camera around and videotape everything. She has flawless complexion and great talent in table tennis, like, Asian good. Also, like the BAMF that she is, she is fluent in Spanish, Celtic and Elvish.
“What isn’t worth remembering? With good memories comes bad memories, and I’ve got a lot of both. At least, this way, I can fast forward through all the bad stuff. The counselor once told me that it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in the past, or trying to forget the past. What matters is what you do in the present. So that’s why I just try to soak it up as much as possible.”
Worst Posture: Sarah Hyland as cheer captain-slash-queen Claire Matthews
“But I didn’t laugh at you. In what grade do we stop believing in ourselves? In what grade do we stop believing, period? Someone has the be the Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Someone has to be the ballerina. Why not us?”
Someone should cast her as Vanessa Hudgens’ younger sister in some movie or something. We know her as Dylan from Disney’s Geek Charming. And now you will know her as the whiny head cheer bitch who has in-campus sex with the coach.
“The worst thing of being on top of the pyramid is that you can get really hurt if you fall.”
Best Hair, I mean look at that thing: Carter Jenkins as Nicholas Forbes
Nicholas Forbes is the school rich boy, and gets around by paying people to do his bidding. He seems to have very strict and unaccepting parents, so when Carson finds out–spoiler alert–that he’s gay and frequently has bathroom stall sex with his boyfriend, Drama Club President Scott Thomas (Graham Rogers), he’s more than happy to pay Carson to get him to shut up. But it doesn’t work.
As for Carter Jenkins, that boy has fine hair. I’m pretty iffy on his acting, though. The only other place I’ve seen him in is Aliens in the Attic as Tom Pearson.
Most Gay, more-than-Colfer: Graham Rogers as Scott Thomas
I don’t think Graham Rogers is actually gay IRL, but his voice, his glittery-painted toe nails, and his dance moves could give him a pass. So plus two points if he really isn’t gay, because he still made a pretty believable character.
This is him, right? The blonde guy? Because I originally thought it was Grant Gustin, who plays Sebastian Smythe from Glee‘s Warblers. But alas.
And that, over there in the background, is the athlete who is deserving of the next superlative:
Most Conceited: Allie Grant as Remy Baker
We all might remember Allie Grant growing up, as Agnes from Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. She was the creepy one. I don’t know how she got cast as the president of the Yearbook Committee, but if the goal was to make her the most annoying character in the film, then it works. Seeing her, of all people, seated atop a table, rejecting photos and judging people by their appearance, only makes me think that the casting director is a genius.
I think the way Colfer wrote her and intended for her
Most Poetic: Matt Prokop as school stoner boy Dwayne Michaels
“Why do people live 2D lives in a 3D world, when they can live 4D lives all the time?”
Once again from Disney’s Geek Charming, and also Jimmie from HSM3, Matt Prokop plays the perpetually high student Dwayne Michaels. I feel like Matt is actually the most versatile actor in this cast, for some reason. But I think that’s just me.
Most Make-Up: Ashley Rickards as Vicki Jordan
Familiar face? Or do we need to put her arm in a cast? Jenna Hamilton from MTV’s Awkward. brings her sassy remarks to the big screen with Vicki Jordan. What amazes me with Ashley Rickard’s performance is that she’s given the goth character, the person who likes talking about the dead/undead, and has a pretty dead outlook on life. But that doesn’t make Rickard’s performance dead at all. She moves her lips and angles her head slightly to make a reaction, all while keeping her voice in a deep, I don’t really care if you die, semi-monotone, and her eyes filled with nothing but apathetic joy.
Most Emilio: Roberto Aguire, as Emilio
There are only three things you need to remember about Emilio: (1) Emilio has gorgeous rooster hair, (2) Emilio smells like puppies, and (3) Emilio is the bean in your pupusa, and he’s damn proud of it.
I hate her:
Also, I hate Carson’s mom.
Sheryl Phillips loves her son, even when she casually tells him he was unwanted, or she hates her. We all know she just did things because she loved her son, and she’s the first to worry about him. Doesn’t make her any less stupid, though. So I still hate her. But I love Allison Janney–she’s the woman who will end up making you cry in this film.
And his dad. His dad is the worst. Dermot Mulroney perfectly portrays Neal Phillips, the man who recycles his apologies, and taste in wives.
Christina Hendricks playing April only breaks your heart worse than it already has, because you start to think that she’ll end up with that pretentious douchebag. What kind of monster turns bright, loving ladies into emotionally wrecked, drugged up bums?
This isn’t the life you want. I gave him my life, and I was tossed aside when he decided I wasn’t enough. This was never part of my picket fence fantasy. You and I aren’t so different. I had a kid to save a marriage, and you’re having one to ensure one. So you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Especially you. Because I was you. And now I’m this.
And he’s back: Adam Kolkin
If you can remember that little boy over there, then you must have seen him from Glee, as a young Kurt Hummel. I think he’ll forever be cast as a younger Chris Colfer in everything, because the resemblance really is uncanny. It’s too bad he only appeared a few shots, but this kid is perfect.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who flew.
What The Carson Phillips Journal really tells a story of was how Carson wasted his life, by working so hard, trying to be a good grandson, a good son, a worthy writer, but end up not having what he wanted–and how he’s okay with that. It’s a story about how Carson learns that it was in whatever he “wasted” his life on that made it worth living in the first place. It was in Carson’s acceptance and self-appreciation for the things that he had and were able to do, despite all the disappointments, that he found his peace.
And so, he died.
“Don’t try to find the ideas. Let the ideas find you. It’s one of hte most amazing experiences, you know, finding something to write about–realizing something for the first time. It comes out of nowhere, and it just hits you, and it’s all you can think about, and it goes through your body, and it tries to escape, and be expressed in any way possible. I mean, it’s ah, it’s a lot like, uhm–”
Struck by Lightning gets 9 out of 10.