Imagine if there was a movie with two recent Oscar winners, a rising movie star, and the breakout from one of TV’s most beloved comedies. Well, no imagining needed, because Short Term 12 exists!
For the people who have seen the 2013 Indie, which made only slightly more than $1 million at the box office, it wasn’t a surprise to see Brie Larson, Rami Malek, and Lakeith Stanfield turn into three of Hollywood’s biggest up-and-coming stars. But now, the industry and the widespread viewing public is catching up, between Malek having just won an Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody, Stanfield breaking out on Atlanta and in films like Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, and Larson following up her own Oscar by becoming Captain Marvel.
Okay, maybe we didn’t it see all of this coming (Malek doesn’t get too much meaty material), but the signs were there in writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton’s project about those living and working at a group home for troubled teenagers.
In her first lead role, Larson, who had shown comedy chops with supporting roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 21 Jump Street, shines as Grace, the supervisor of Short Term 12, who’s grappling with her own dark past as she deals with an unexpected pregnancy and a young girl who reminds her of herself. Larson’s performance here is why it wasn’t a surprise to see her emotionally wreck us in Room on her way to an Academy Award for Best Actress. And we weren’t the only ones, considering Room director Lenny Abrahamson cast Larson because of what she did in Short Term 12.
On a rewatch, now knowing what all of these actors have become, the real standout that didn’t get the appreciation he deserved at the time is Stanfield. Maybe part of that was our lack of history with him, as this marked his film debut. But, Cretton clearly knew that the actor was something special, having cast Stanfield in the original short film, which won the Sundance prize for Short Filmmaking in 2009. Stanfield would then become the only actor to appear in both, starring in the feature-length film as Marcus, a 17-year-old struggling with his impending required departure from the group home. There are a few heartbreaking Marcus scenes, but perhaps none more so than his rap (seen below) about his life, ending with his continued mission to shave his head before he leaves. While it looks like Marcus’ life will have a tragic conclusion, he gets a happy ending — and a surprising backstory — courtesy of the final scene.
And it’s not just Larson, Malek, and Stanfield that are the notable performers here. The Newsroom‘s John Gallagher Jr. is great as Grace’s boyfriend and coworker, providing some much-needed light moments amidst the darkness; Justified‘s Kaitlyn Dever turns in a strong performance as Jayden, a new arrival who Grace takes a personal interest in; and Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Stephanie Beatriz delivers a very non-Rosa performance.
So after you’ve seen Larson soar in Captain Marvel, go home and become part of the select — but hopefully growing — group that realizes what a marvel Short Term 12 is (the film can be streamed via Amazon Prime and is available to rent or buy on platforms like iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube). Then, continue to watch the cast star in literally everything.