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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
Rocket Science is essentially a movie about a boy who discovers his
worth and abilities throughout his furious campaign for his dreams. The
film's mood pushes the limit of tongue- in-cheek, and it is certainly
felt as a comedy because after all, the premise is a stuttering boy
joining a debate team, but despite all the hilarious non sequiturs and
plot-driven laughs, I take that essential theme to heart. Hal Heffner
is an innocently gawky young high school kid, portrayed in a should-be
career-making performance by Reece Thompson, who has a severe
stuttering problem and experiences a change of events that he finds to
have had a tempestuous emotional effect on him that I'm just dying to
give away but won't. From this point on, we share those emotions,
because it's nearly impossible not to throw in all your chips for this
kid. The reason is because growing up, frankly, is hard. Once one has
done it, one doesn't feel like it was as hard as it was, but at the
time, it most definitely was. Watching this film, we watch this naive
stuttering boy crippled by inhibitions and shyness mature, reaching the
extremes of anger, confusion, love, intellectual growth, and
There are plenty of movies about high school, and they're full of comeuppance, humor targeted for that age, discovery of sex, et cetera, but there is very very rarely a movie like Rocket Science, a movie about that particular time in your life when you were just growing into yourself and you didn't even know it, and you hardly look back at that time because of the unawareness of self at that point and, hopefully, the growth since then. This is an important little film that, though it isn't receiving the attention I feel it would and should get with a wider and longer release, time will be kind to, with great hope.
With another entry in the "coming of age" category, I really was
pleasantly surprised to find--if not an original--a deeply-felt, honest
portrayal of the trials of adolescence. The strongest aspects were the
performances from the entire cast with Anna Kendrick and Vincent Piazza
being standouts. Of course, the fine work of Reese Thompson will be
rewarded by the praise he deserves (and hopefully awarded).
But this deeply personal film has many fine moments, both hysterically funny and painfully revealing. Because it refuses to be predictable--even in the final moments--I believe it will stand above other films of this genre. A well chosen score will keep it from becoming dated. It's never glib towards a range "bent" characters, and chooses to leave the smart remarks for the characters and not the film itself. Despite the subject of repressed anger and expressed rage, there's a sweetness that avoids the sentimental.
Clearly Jeffery Blitz needed to tell this story. And I hope he has many more for us in the future.
I saw this movie earlier this year at a preview screening. The cool thing was that I had no Idea what it was about, I didn't even look it up for a plot outline. I was extremely pleasantly surprised. It was a very good movie, definitely worth seeing. The soundtrack was extremely fitting to the theme of the film as well. It turns out from some of the comments I have read here, some people just do not like this film. I cannot find a reason for that. I have noticed that with the younger crowd, this movie seems to not be as popular as others. This movie is very linear when it comes to how things really are. You can relate to several main characters and their struggles in life. If you are expecting a slapstick, non realistic comedy with tons of shock value, go and watch Wedding Crashers (which I love by the way). If you want to see a movie with intelligent dialogue with a good message and great acting, go and see Rocket Science. My rating 10.
On the brink of exhaustion after a week at Sundance, I sat down in a comfy plush seat in a theater that was not really a theater, but rather a library converted into a theater. Between the habitual midnight showing and average three movie viewing a day, I had fallen asleep in the last two, (Trust me, I did everything in the book to try and keep myself conscious) and thought this would be the third as I began to slouch down in this sumptuousness of a chair, but suddenly, the catchy music, witty dialog, and stimulating visuals had enlivened me. I was literally on the edge of my seat, hanging on to every word Hal Hefner uttered. It was remarkably fresh, continuously entertaining, and even profoundly deep. But in a good way. Which is quite rare not only in movies, but in life really. It made teenage angst and the mid-life crisis a little lighter, even hilarious. And who would think either would be funny. Anyways, this is quite a memorable tale, leaving you with a feeling of infinity, and the wisdom of approaching the serious things with a bit of humor.
One of last years best scripts and a breakout performance from the
natural Reece Thompson ensures Rocket Science is up on 2007's biggest
sleepers list. Unlike the overrated Juno, Jeffrey Blitz's stimulating
screenplay hardly ever rings hollow, despite the fact some of these
high schooler's made that pregnant whippersnapper sound like a three
year old. Here though, as unrealistically hyper-articulate as this high
school debate team, indie-romance styled dramedy feels, Blitz possesses
the rare ability to seamlessly merge it with a whole bunch of tender
awkwardness and create something far superior then a wit-fest.
Encapsulating this neurotic whimsy is the gifted Thompson (amongst other very well casted performances) who like a younger, more accessible Jason Schwartzman, takes an annoyingly exploited trait of stuttering unease and mines it into a tender, thoughtful coming of age characterization that should inspire even the most cynical of introverts.
Littered with scene after scene of a simply far more perceptive quirk then what Hollywood's continuously dumbed-down interpretations of independent film used to be, Rocket Science blasts off with personality and style to spare.
The entire time I was watching rocket science, I was gob smacked by the
performances of the entire cast, but in particular Anna Kendrick and
Nicholas D'Agosto. Their performances were unlike anything I've seen in
years!!! I think it's difficult to portray a character that you hate
and love quite like Anna has done in this movie, and even now.. I'm
still wondering..? but mostly it's love ;)
Seriously, for the last 2 decades or so, Hollywood has been lacking the ability to produce anything that even resembles 'originality' and usually just chews up and spits out a recombination of 3 or 4 stories that have been told time and time again..... and for that reason alone, there'll probably be one or two people that won't even appreciate this movie because its not that run of the mill crap they're used too.
But honestly, whoever put together the cast of this movie deserves a massive pat on the back. I cannot think of another name that could have fit the profile of these characters so perfectly!
I question how the hell it got the 'R' rating however?? Come on, its language and sexuality content was on par with 'Lost in Translation'.. What the? Whether you're 25 or 12, watch this movie by yourself with no distractions and no one to influence your reactions and you will LOVE this movie, it's very clever. I recommend it highly!
I'm surprised that this film elicits so many negative reviews here. I
enjoyed reading the rant by the guy who spells cello "chello." I think
that pretty much explains it. Literacy will be required to appreciate
This has to be the best dialog in any film ever made with a stutterer as a central character.
I found the performances letter-perfect; not a false note anywhere. This is a movie where even the bit parts are played by well-cast actors, not producers' pretty boyfriends or girlfriends. I loved the girl in the washroom with the nosebleed, for example. Perfect.
Rushmore did not come to mind while I watched this film, nor did any of the other "quirky" films named here by other reviewers. But I did think of it as a companion piece to "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Both set in NJ, and both with central characters at the bottom of their school social ranking, and coping with their realities better than one would think.
I particularly liked the relationship between adults and kids in this film. The adults (parents and teachers) are wise about the kids, and the kids are just as wise about the adults. The tone was just right.
For some, the joys of being a teenager include excelling at sports,
having a girlfriend or boyfriend, being part of a close circle of
friends, or just having fun. For others, there is only the constant
feeling of being an outsider looking in. For some, even the thought of
getting out of bed in the morning to go to school is filled with dread.
Case in point - Hal Hefner, a fifteen year old attending Plainsboro
High School in New Jersey, who is trying to make sense of growing up
but is burdened by a stutter so debilitating that he cannot even tell
the cafeteria worker at school that he wants pizza instead of fish.
Rocket Science, the second feature by Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound), who
overcame his own stuttering disability, is a teen comedy that
poignantly captures the painful loneliness of adolescence.
While on paper Rocket Science sounds like other coming of age films such as Election and Rushmore, it manages to capture something unique and very special about being a teenager without having to rely on grossness, stereotypes, or implausible situations. Brilliantly played by Vancouver actor Reece Thompson, Hal's sweetness and innocence is totally captivating and we identify with his pain and root for him to succeed. His family support, however, is virtually nonexistent. His brother Earl (Vincent Piazza) is a compulsive thief and bully who calls him by girls' names, his father has moved out of the house and his mother (Lizbeth Bartlett) has a Korean boyfriend, a Small Claims judge, (Steve Park) who laughs inappropriately and whose son Heston (Aaron Yu), a bisexual, shows an unusual amount of interest in him.
Hal has a speech therapist, Mr. Lewinsky (Maury Ginsberg), but he is so incompetent that he tells him that he wishes Hal was hyperactive so he would know how to treat him. Under these circumstances, the last place he would want to be is on the high school debating team, a collection of driven, super-confident word magicians who can speak with authority at breakneck speed on both sides of an issue. Surprisingly however, Hal is recruited by top debater Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick) to be her debate partner after her former partner Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D'Agosto) went blank at last year's championship match.
Ginny, a charming but overly aggressive super student, tells Hal that "deformed people" make good competitors because they have so much anger to express. Hal's first inclination is to say no but he is so taken with Ginny and flattered that someone could see some possibility in him that he accepts. Giving it the old high school try, he stumbles badly both in pursuing his romance and in debating the subject of sexual abstinence in high school, so badly in fact that he often has to hide in the janitor's closet from embarrassment.
Mr. Lewinsky advises Hal to try singing the words of the debate to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic, or speaking with a foreign accent and he does both with hilarious effect. Partly out of revenge and partly out of desperation, he turns to failed debater Ben Wekselbaum, now working in Trenton in a cleaners, to be his new partner after Ginny transfers to a different school. The ending is ripe for the big debate in which all the pieces fit neatly together but Blitz does not go there. Instead he relies on the inner strength of the characters to see them through, not on a contrived narrative.
While there are some predictably oddball characters like Philosophy major Lionel (Jonah Hill), pint-sized Josh (Lewis Garrles) who spies on Ginny for him (and models her bra that he has stolen), and an older couple who practice the Kama Sutra and play Violent Femmes "Blister In The Sun" duets on the cello and piano, Rocket Science has few false notes. It is wise, honest, funny, touching, and painfully sad with Oscar-caliber performances. It's not rocket science to figure out why it is the best film so far of 2007.
How anyone could be bored with this is beyond me. Perhaps the film hits too close to home. See it, if for no other reason, for the terrific performances of Reece Thompson and Anna Kendrick. They are both amazing in their key roles, and, were this a high-profile Hollywood film, would no doubt be considered come Oscar time, as well they should be! High school can be a painful time, so to expect some Disney version of perfect, perky kids, who all look like teen models, is downright unrealistic. This film, on the other hand, rang true in just about every scene, which is no easy task. And I have to add that I have become a big fan of Margo Martindale, who can do just about anything asked of her. (See her touching segment in the multi-segment film "Paris, je t'aime" and her work in "The Riches" to get an idea of how terrific this actress is.) In any event, if you want to see a film that reflects high school in all its good-bad-and-ugly splendor, this is one film you should not miss.
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