‘Struck by Lightning’: a fresh take on high school

It’s not surprising that young actor Chris Colfer would write a juicy role for himself in the new independent film, “Struck by Lightning.”

What is surprising is the sensitivity Colfer and director Brian Dannely bring to the other characters in this comedy-drama about an ambitious high school senior whose plans — and life — are terminated in the opening scene.

Carson Phillips is indeed struck by lightning as he walks to his car in the high school parking lot. The rest of the film consists of a series of flashbacks — narrated by Carson — showing us what led up to his early demise.

We are dropped into two of the most overworked genres in moves — a coming of age story combined with a high school comedy — but Colfer and Dannely work lots of fresh ideas into their tale of a brainy, isolated kid struggling to achieve his goal of studying journalism at Northwestern.

“Struck by Lightning” is told from the point of view of an adolescent boy, but Colfer sees beyond Carson’s predicament. He has written a terrific part for Allison Janney (below) as Carson’s bitter, divorced, over-medicated mother and good ones for Dermot Mulroney as the boy’s absent father and Christina Hendricks as the father’s new (and pregnant) partner.

The film opens up to show us Carson’s one school friend — the sharp young comedienne Rebel Wilson — and his many classmates/enemies who start off as stereotypes but deepen as we see they are just as locked in as Carson.

“Struck By Lightning” was clearly shot on a shoestring budget — the high school is mysteriously underpopulated and there isn’t much texture to the town everyone lives in — but Colfer shows great promise as a writer-actor. Perhaps there is a “Girls”-style cable series in his future.

(“Struck by Lightning” opens tomorrow at the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport for a series of showings running through Jan. 31. Check the schedule at www.bijoutheatre.com. The film is also available from video on demand services.)