F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 3, 2010)

3 09 2010

My so-called Comedy Week comes to a conclusion today with this “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” a little indie comedy by the name of “Rocket Science.”  It’s a great high school movie, covering a group that gets very little cinematic coverage – the debaters.  Conceived by documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz after observing Spelling Bee contestants and reflecting on his own adolescence, he creates a very authentic high school environment where youth is neither sneered at nor idealized.

The movie’s hero is perhaps one of the unlikeliest debaters, a fifteen-year-old with a stutter by the name of Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson).  With his speech impediment, he is not naturally drawn to the art of rhetoric.  Like so much in life, he winds up doing it to get a girl, in this case the team’s star debater, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick).  After her previous partner dropped out of school because of an embarrassing mid-speech moment at the state championships, Ginny enlists Hal to be her new sidekick.  His venture into the world of debating is a funny-sad mix of love, lies, and betrayal (only not set against the backdrop of an implausibly corny ABC Family series).

Blitz and the movie received plenty of accolades from the Sundance Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards, and all laurels are much deserved.  “Rocket Science” is an honest look at the development of our selves and values in high school, something everyone goes through in those for years.  As someone still undergoing these changes (albeit in their final year), I definitely found that the film spoke to me on a very personal level.  Much like you don’t need to be Greek to connect with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you don’t need to be a debater to get this movie.  The lessons can apply to any group or activity in high school.

Want to know how Anna Kendrick became Golden Globe, SAG, and Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick?  Look to “Rocket Science” for the answer.  Jason Reitman, writer/director of “Up in the Air,” wrote the part of Natalie Keener specifically for her after seeing her play Ginny.  I certainly wouldn’t have stumbled upon “Rocket Science” had it not been for Kendrick’s wowing turn in “Up in the Air,” and I’m certainly glad I discovered both her and this both heartwarming and contemplative movie.



One response

6 09 2010

Haven’t seen this, but as a former debater I feel sort of obligated to do so. I’m happy to hear that it isn’t just a debate movie, but it’s also a GOOD debate movie.

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