That's What I Am
I watched a new movie this week entitled: That's What I Am. It is a smaller budget, independent movie set in the mid-1960's. It follows 12 year-old Andy Nichol (played by Chase Ellison), a bright student who, like most kids his age, will do anything to avoid conflict for fear of suffering overwhelming ridicule and punishment from his junior high school peers.
Everyone's favorite teacher, Mr. Simon (played by Ed Harris), pairs Andy with the school's biggest outcast and social pariah, Stanley Minor (played by Alexander Walters), aka "Big G" (for his ginger colored hair), on a critical term project. Sporting thick orange hair, a head too big for his body and ears too big for his head, "Big G" has been the object of ridicule since grade school. Before long, Andy will learn that there was truly a method behind Mr. Simon's madness as to why he teamed these two up.
As the story unfolds, Mr. Simon finds himself the target of a malicious rumor after Principal Kelner (played by Amy Madigan) suspends a school bully for brutally beating up a female classmate whom he thinks has "cooties." When Andy watches "Big G" fearlessly confront the school bully, a series of events are triggered which change the lives of both young men - and their teacher - forever. Much to Andy's surprise, "Big G" is a brilliant, kind, tolerant, and decent human being who has more dignity than anyone Andy has ever encountered.
The title is applied to Andy (he is a writer, that's what he is), Stanley (he is a singer, that's what he is), and Mr. Simon (he is a teacher, that's what he is). Each of them must come to terms with that and be willing to take on anyone who will challenge the assertion.
There is a more-than slight discussion of Mr. Simon being a Homosexual, but it ends up being a much minor plot of the story.
I like that fact as often we search for how we should be labeled. Is Andy just a kid, a lost boy, a kid learning about love (and kissing for the first time)? Yes, but he labels himself as a writer. Stanley, the cipher, who is known for his odd looks and weirdness, even above his brilliance, wants to be known as a singer. Mr. Simon is labeled a homosexual by some, a favorite teacher by all, a friend by many, and yet wants to be known for his teaching.
I am a Mormon. It is a part of me. I'm a strong consultant, with an analytical mind at work. My friends call me loyal and loving. Each of these are parts of who I am. I'm gay, as well. But, these all play minor roles in my life. Who I am, and who we all are, becomes much more than small parts of us, it is more the sum of the whole. And, each of us can decide on who we want to be. Friend, lover, father, daughter, gay, Muslim, Hispanic ... But, in the end we are all of the above. That's what we are!
Great film that tells a good story. The movie had great parts, but fell slightly because of the lower budget and a few overly dramatic parts. Definitely worth the watch. You'll fall in love with all of the main characters.