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I just finished watching this film and decided that I should say
something about it. Firstly, Wow! Kristen Stewart. There is an actress
with a great future. An impressive performance. The support cast, which
it must be remembered, play a fairly incidental role in this film, were
adequate at allowing her to shine through. The Directing was solid. I
didn't get lost, it wasn't all over the place.
Plotwise, I was quietly moved. I had seen this film on cable a couple of times before and just flicked passed it thinking it was just more "made for TV" crapola, but tonight I tuned in at the beginning and failed to channel surf away. I stuck with it till the end, and if anything, was sorry that it was over. It managed to suck me right into the story, I wanted to see where I was being taken.
It's not a bold film, even though it discusses a challenging topic. I was worried the Teen Angst Engine may kick in, and was glad to see it nowhere in sight. It was a film that left me thoughtful, and wanting to tell someone to give it a chance.... so... give it a chance, I thought it was worth it.
I saw this movie at Sundance and was very surprised that it went
home with no awards. Though I'm not familiar with the book, I can
say that Jessica Scharzer does a masterful job of telling a delicate
story in a very real and touching way. It is never easy to handle a
story about a traumatizing event, but to do it with such sensitivity, in
the midst of a HILARIOUS movie, is pure genius. A great deal of
the credit must go to Kristen Stewart for her portrayal of a girl
whose emotions are always known to the audience, though she
hardly ever says a word. Anyone who has been to high school
should get a big kick from some of the send-ups in "Speak." And
for anyone who has doubted the talents of Steve Zahn, just look for
the scene where he sees what Melinda (Stewart) has done in the
I hope to see this movie in theaters soon, and I give it my highest recommendation. And no, I don't know anyone who was involved with it. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due. Go see this movie!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In my review a year ago of "Catch That Kid", I referred to Kristen
Stewart as a young Portman/Knightley. Most people thought I was going a
bit overboard but with her performance in "Speak" I feel even more
confident of my assessment. Although "Speak" was shot within a few
months of "Catch That Kid" Stewart looks considerably older, with the
Portman/Knightley connection even more obvious. Her understated
performance as Melinda Sordino is absolutely riveting. Stewart's
performance is critical to this film because she is not just the
central character but also the narrator, the entire story is told from
her point of view.
Cinematographer Andrij Parekh gets maximum effect from the camera as the film is filled with tight shots of Stewart's face and eyes. Director Jesseca Sharzer gets an incredible non-verbal performance from Stewart which is nicely offset by the voice-over narration. Like the narration in "The Opposite of Sex" and "Girl" this helps relieve the intensity and introduces some wry humor into the story. I particularly liked Stewart's offhand voice-over on her way to the principal's office: "I forgot that the suffragettes were hauled off to jail, duh".
Melinda's flat and distanced narration is often contradicted by the crushing emotional trauma she is experiencing on the screen, this dichotomy is a very effective way to illustrate her inner strength and multi-dimensionality.
Parekh complements his close work with interesting short focal transitions and some good exterior shots. One especially nice one is when Stewart is walking in the distance and the focus slowly changes to highlight a bee and a flower in the foreground.
Like "Welcome to the Dollhouse", the adult roles are a bit extreme but the student roles are very convincing.
Interestingly, the climatic scene actually occurs about 15 minutes before the ending. Melinda's rejuvenation happens during her impromptu hospital visit, her voice-over reflects this change: "It happened. There's no avoiding it. No forgetting." Strong again she dumps Heather, plays a killer set of tennis, and bicycles to the scene of last summer's party where she confronts what happened to her and decides to tell Rachel. The tree that inspired her painting helps tie everything together.
Virtually everyone should find this film engrossing, but it will especially appeal to those who like to see their heroines get stronger as a story progresses.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
NOTES ON THE ADAPTATION: A personal visualization process occurs when reading a book that often makes its movie adaptation less powerful and less enjoyable. But it also affords the opportunity to focus on understanding why the screenwriter, director, and editor choose to use, alter, or omit each element in the book. Adaptations are all about economy and efficiency as they try to tell the same essential story visually and often symbolically.
In the case of "Speak", I think the movie is more powerful than the book as you feel Melinda's trauma more, even if you don't understand it as precisely. The visuals of Melinda's emotional battles are more powerful than any narrative; as are the visuals of her drawings and of the process of her growing stronger as the story progresses.
The adaptation shows Melinda's parents more positively but still portrays them as disinterested. The key scene is Christmas morning. Watch how after receiving the art supplies Melinda is pleasantly stunned that her parents were actually aware that she was drawing, then quickly disappointed when they disconnect and start their own conversation about the stereo system, which brings on the flashback of them not being there when she returned home from the party.
They wonderfully condense the process of Mr. Freeman connecting with Melinda, the key scene is when he and Ivy are discussing her art project with the turkey bones and the palm tree. Melinda is seated as they come into the frame from both sides. The camera is static as they discuss the project until just before Mr. Freeman says the word "pain". At that point they cut to a tight reaction shot of Melinda's face as the word registers and her eyes look up at him in surprise. With that short sequence they manage to communicate about 50 pages of narrative and to say all that is needed about the special relationship that Melinda and Mr. Freeman will develop. The viewer is shown not just that he is picking up her pain from the symbolism in her art work, but more importantly that she now realizes there is someone who is tuned in and interested in her welfare. This little sequence is truly inspired and a great illustration of the visual power of film.
More than anything, watch SPEAK for Kristen Stewart's raw, honest,
beautiful performance. This young actress can convey more with one look
than most veterans can with an entire monologue. She reminds me of a
young Mary Louise Parker. And as a director, she shot up on my wish
list of people I'd one day like to work with!
Aside from Stewart, the film is very well directed, tightly scripted...Steve Zahn is quite good as the art teacher with the heart of gold...
And I love the score, which owes a lot to Neutral Milk Hotel.
But really it's all about Stewart. There isn't one beat of her performance which does not ring true.
I was luck enough to see this film at Sundance. I'd read the book when it came out and loved it, but wasn't sure how it would translate to film, given that the main character really doesn't talk at all in the book. Jessica Sharzer's adaptation handles all of the potential problems beautifully, without changing the fundamental story and using voiceover only sparingly. What really makes the movie, though, is Kristen Stewart's complete embodiment of Melinda. She does things with her face that actors twice her age with twice her experience only wish they could do. Though the film is not at all didactic in nature, it would be a great one for teens to see with their parents. Lots of good material for discussion. It's great to see Laurie Halse Anderson's wonderful book get the screen treatment it deserves. If you like this movie, you might also like BLUE CAR, MANNY & LO, and THE CHOCOLATE WAR.
This finally aired on Lifetime yesterday, and since I was such a big
fan of Laurie Halse Anderson's novel, I might as well wanted to see the
movie to compare them.
The first few minutes of the movie turned out to be exactly pages from the book, as well as some emotional moments that almost reduced me to tears, showed exactly the way she was feeling, and how she was connected from the moment to the school year in such depressive, mute fashion that she manages to handle so well. The story involves a teenage girl who, after calling the cops to bust a wrecked summer party, comes to acknowledge her peers won't talk to her anymore. So, what do you do when times like these come to happen? Stay silent, don't get noticed by anyone. However, there was something at the party that she doesn't want people to know, and if she tells it, it will rip and shed her into pieces. Now, your probably asking yourself? Why wouldn't you talk to your parents? She would, only that her mom (Elizabeth Perkins) and dad (D.B. Sweeney) are almost never home so that way they can talk to her about anything.
As the movie goes on, Melinda (Kirsten Stewart) begins to lighten up around the surroundings. She starts to feel into her own, and the school year (besides the fact her grades went flushing down the toilet). Melinda starts to make friends little by little, as she connects with her eccentric Art teacher Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn). The two of them exemplify what it means to try and go against what is asked of them, and go above that to raising the bar to a whole new level of education, and life.
As for the acting, Stewart is extraordinary as the reclusive Melinda Sordino. She fits the feelings of a depressed girl, striving for help, and need from peers, not harmful words. She makes herself known around the school, as "the girl who busted Kyle Rodgers's summer party" and shows it around by the depressive acts (cutting (both class and self mutilation), making her own room, being practically mute). Stewart has the absolute potential to be another Lindsay Lohan, but in this case, she's become her own actress.
The rest of the cast could have been better, but the second runner up is Steve Zahn, whose films could have seen better days, but this film is probably his best work, compared to "Saving Silverman" or "Freak talks about Sex". He should make films like these more often than not. His portrayal of the rebellious, journeyman Mr. Freeman tell the students about themselves, and tells a small anecdote about him. His overshadowing of the students make him sound more powerful than the principal himself, and his voice strengthen amongst the weaker ones.
Powerful movie, I recommend this to anyone with teenagers, or any educational film. This is a worth to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally an intelligent film about teen agers. The fascinating novel by
Laurie Halse Anderson comes to the screen adapted by the director
herself, Jessica Sharzer. The film merits to be seen by a wide audience
because it tackles a lot of problems young people, especially young
girls. Parents should see this movie because it will be an eye opener
If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading here.
Melinda Sordino is a wounded young woman. In flashbacks we see her as a happy and social teen ager, in sharp contrast with the taciturn and lonely girl we watch boarding the bus to go to school as the film begins. In flashbacks one gets to know the trauma that Melinda has gone through. All her bitterness is kept hidden inside her, as she won't talk about it, much less tell her distant parents what made her change.
Melinda is a loner by necessity. Her former best friends turned against her because she called the police when the party, that proved to be the turning point in her life, gets out of hand. As a result, Melinda is ridiculed by her peers. "Speak" deals with the complex problems young people have to face on a daily basis in school, a place that should be a place of learning instead of a place that causes most problems among the young people, as Laurie Halse Anderson points out in her novel.
The only kind soul Melinda encounters is the art teacher Mr. Freeman. He is a man that doesn't adhere to conventions and seems to be a rebel himself. With his encouragement, Melinda begins to draw and sketch pieces that are crude and devoid of life, but in them, she shows a talent to be a good artist under the right circumstances.
Melinda realizes she must come out of the state that is affecting her life by confronting Rachel with the truth, something the other girl is not ready to accept since she is too emotionally involved with the young man that caused Melinda's trauma. The result is a changed Melinda, who suddenly realizes she must confess everything to her parents and go on with her life.
The film owes a lot to Kristen Stewart, who as Melinda projects all the emotions bottled up in this young woman. Ms. Stewart appears to be a natural performer who can express all what she is feeling by her expressions. Steve Zahn is seen as the understanding teacher who sees all the potential in Melinda and is instrumental in giving her the confidence she should have. Elizabeth Perkins and D.B. Sweeney are Melinda's parents who should have seen what's wrong with her from the start, but being so involved with their lives, don't pay attention to their suffering daughter.
Jessica Sharzer shows a potential for going far as a director because she shows a sensitivity rarely seen these days in serious movies dealing with wounded souls like Melinda Sordino.
The teenager Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart) joins the high-school
with a great feeling of rejection and becomes practically mute. Her
school mates and friends call her "squealer", because she called the
police during a summer party; she does not have communication with her
mother, Joyce Sordino (Elizabeth Perkins), who is workaholic and is
permanently busy; and she has problem with a very radical teacher. She
finds a great support with her arts teacher Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn)
and her school friend David Petrakis (Michael Angarano), and recalls
her traumatic experience in the summer school, when she was raped,
learning how to deal with the situation and reborn mature.
"Speak" is a very simple and linear story, and even in the trailer the predictable trauma of Melinda is disclosed; therefore there are no surprises, plot point or mystery to have a twist in the story. What makes "Speak" a little gem and so special are the realistic story, the excellent direction and the stunning performances, mainly of Kristen Stewart in the role of the traumatized Melinda, learning how to deal with her rape and later rejection by the mates by herself. Steve Zahn is also great in a mature role (I believe this is the first time I see him in this type of character) of a supportive school teacher. The nominations and award of the sensitive director Jessica Sharzer are very fair, but I believe Kristen Stewart deserved also a nomination for her brilliant and awesome performance. I would like to recommend this movie for parents of teenagers. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Silêncio de Melinda" ("The Silence of Melinda")
I saw this movie at the film festival and I fell in love with it. Kristen is my fav actor so I just had to see it. Kristen was so amazing she does things with her expressions and her face detail the actors older then her are still trying to accomplish. I can't wait to buy it so I can watch it over and over and admire her talent! I also thought that they were also many great actors in this film. I have to give credit to jessica the screen writer she did an amazing job. At first I didn't know how the movie was going to turn out because it is all basically in Melindas head. But it turned out awesome and I cannot wait for it to come out so I cam admire it at home everyday. You rock Kristen.
I can react to this movie on a number of levels. First of all, it is a
wonderful thing that this film was made. It deals with a very real yet
troubling issue, and handles it with sensitivity and hope. This movie has
the potential to really help people, and I can't think of a better legacy
for a filmmaker.
Despite all that, I wish this would have been a better movie. The pacing of the story seemed wildly out of whack and there were a couple of directorial decisions that could certainly be questioned. On the other hand, Kristen Stewart's performance in the lead role of Melinda was excellent, although the rest of the acting left me flat. (Even Steve Zahn, who I normally love, seemed a bit miscast.) And while the writing didn't grab me, there were enough light-hearted moments to make Melinda's personal anguish bearable for the audience.
Beyond cinema as therapy, the film contained meaningful insights into the potential of artistic expression in healing, the general alienation of being a freshman in high school, or the critical relationship of an individual's will and determination with the healing process. People should see this movie not because of its cinematic excellence but because it has an important and optimistic message.
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