Clay Liford's satire centers around a substitute teacher at a rough school who has reached his breaking point.
A dark-around-the-edges, revenge-of-the-nerd satire, Clay Liford’s Wuss refers to a put-upon substitute teacher at a tough school who has finally been pushed to the limit.
With the exception of a tonally-jarring third act, the effectively cast indie production is an otherwise fresh, energetic and smartly funny film that deserves placement with a non-mainstream distributor.
Central character Mitch Parker (Nate Rubin) is no stranger to arrested development.
In his mid-20’s but still living at home with his mother (Sylvia Luedtke) and bullying sister (Jennifer Sipes), the geeky Parker teaches English as a sub at the very same high school he attended a decade earlier, while, in his off hours, he’s a fierce Dungeons & Dragons player.
But when he’s badly beaten after taking on one of the more delinquent members of his class (Ryan Anderson), Mitch is determined to take a stand.
Although his fellow faculty members prove to be of little assistance, he finds an unexpected ally in one of his female students (Alicia Anthony), who acts as a mule for her gun-running big brother (Johnny Mars).
Suggesting a younger, more wet-behind-the-ears Seth Green, Rubin plays the title role to an effectual T, while newcomer Anthony is equally well-cast as his wiser-than-her-years supporter.
While director-writer Liford (who previously directed the popular festival film, Earthling) hits a bit of a snag with an abrupt mood shift in the last 15 minutes that doesn’t feel true to the prevailing vibe, he usually hits the perceptive mark, especially in the staff room where Mitch’s taunting co-workers appear to have never moved beyond the old schoolyard.
Venue: AFI Fest
Production company: Well Tailored Films
Cast: Nate Rubin, Alicia Anthony, Ryan Anderson
Director-screenwriter: Clay Liford
Executive producer: Bala Shagrithaya
Producers: Eric Steele, Barak Epstein, Adam Donaghey
Director of photography: Chris Simpson
Costume designer: Andie Day
Music: Curtis Heath
Editor: Jay Serra
No MPAA Rating, 96 minutes.