Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
Coming of age in Plainsboro, New Jersey. High school student Hal Hefner stutters. On the evening his parents stop arguing and separate, 43 miles away at the state tournament, his school's legendary debater, Ben Wekselbaum, goes blank mid-sentence, Ben's teammate Ginny Ryerson doesn't get a first-place trophy, and the world changes. That fall, to Hal's amazement, Ginny recruits him for the debate team, mentors him, and will be his partner. He still has his stutter, but he works hard and he falls in love with Ginny. On the day of the first debate of the season, the world changes again. From then until the day of the state tournament, Hal has a lot to sort out. Is love rocket science? Written by
This film is simply astounding, in my opinion. The acting is top notch as well as the soundtrack, writing, editing, and photography.
I'll start with the general story:
Hal Heffner (Reece Thompson) is just an ordinary , no frills high-school kid who happens to have a severe stutter. He has a some-what broken home life, living with his older, bullying, thief of a brother, Earl (Vincent Piazza). Their parents don't get along so well... Hal has a difficult time dealing with his stutter in school as well as general daily life. He is especially shy. Well... Hal is approached by the school Debate Team Star, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick) and she entices Hal into joining the Plainsboro High Debate Team. Hal develops a fondness for Ginny and desperately attempts to be closer with her. Hilarity Ensues...
The Acting in this film is nothing but astonishing. Reece does an incredible job of balancing his lines and creating a very convincing stuttering problem. Not only this, but the jokes he has to carry out are low-key and very natural. The very impressive fast-paced and garbled speech that Anna and Nicholas D'Agosto (Ben in the film), as well as the other debaters in the film have to employ is incredible. According to Jeff Blitz, real debaters speak faster, but the Actors/Actresses had to slow their speech so that everything was intelligible. Every player in this film speaks so naturally and fluently that the jokes are not obvious. They require thought, despite their beautiful simplicity. If you know Wes Anderson films, you know what I am talking about.
Speaking of the Writing, it is, once again, amazing. The love story that this film illustrates is a very different type of love story. It takes the genre and flips it upside-down at every turn. This trend also emanates in all other facets of the film as well. Just when your mind thinks one thing is going to happen, something unexpected happens. This film is very unpredictable, which is very nice as this film does not follow the fairy tales that are so common in film today.
Rocket Science is also just beautiful looking. The film was made predominately in the Baltimore Area. The crew did a most convincing job of turning South East Baltimore into Trenton, NJ and turning the suburbs of MD into those of NJ. As a Dundalk resident myself, I can testify.
The editing is also innovative in that it employed its fitting soundtrack into the cutting. The music will fire up to match the sequence and then pause to let a key moment carry itself out, and then pick up right where it left off. Speaking of the music, The Violent Femmes are all over the place and their songs of Love Angst match perfectly with the entire flow and story of the film.
All in all, this film was a most enjoyable experience. The laughs I had are unforgettable and the emotions that I felt watching Hal chase his dreams really tapped into me. Its a realistic film with a slight neurotic sitcom twist to it. Jeff Blitz is simply brilliant and it shows in this work. Reese has a most bright future and will be fully discovered once this film hits.
For a truly uplifting, however, realistic experience that will certainly make you laugh and impress as well, go see Rocket Science when it releases on August 10th.
-Daniel J. Carlin-Weber
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