I saw Rocket Science being promoted heavily on MySpace this week as a must-see film. So I thought I would check it out with no preconceived notions, except of course that it is a Sundance Winner from 2007 (Writer/Director Jeffrey Blitz won a Directing Award and was nominated for Grand Jury Prize) I also knew that apparently Rocket Science was something MySpace felt would appeal to young wanna-be hipsters through the quirky colorful ad I saw as I mentioned on MySpace. The film actually didn't disappoint as it was a very enjoyable and dare I say "cute" film with absolutely amazing acting.
The movie Rocket Science actually has nothing to do with actual science behind rockets which is a good thing, and instead is about a shy, awkward New Jersey high school student named Hal Hefner, played by Reece Thompson. Hefner is coerced into joining the school debate team by a fellow debate club member Ginny Ryerson, played by Anna Kendrick. Being slightly awkward and shy makes debating and public speaking difficult of course. However, adding to his problems, Hal has a terrible stutter to the point where he can barely order a meal from the school cafeteria attendant.
Through the movie Hal tries to figure out a variety of problems and overcome his stuttering so he can become one of the top debators. Ginny has told him she has "ferreted" him out as a future talent and debating partner. Hal also falls in love with his overly precocious debate partner Ginny with mixed results. He spends a lot of time in the film contemplating grand issues like love and the nature of relationships.
One good thing about Rocket Science is that the acting throughout the movie is superb, especially the performance of Hal Hefner. For a young actor, Reece Thompson is incredibly believable and his performance is utterly charismatic and spot-on. Obviously, this Canadian has an excellent acting future ahead of him. The supporting cast of characters also excel in Rocket Science. Director Blitz has a fantastic ability to direct the cast to pull out very nuanced and subtle performances embodying all of the humor and darkness that accompanies teenage life and adult life in the suburbs.
In the DVD's special features, Blitz mentioned a few things that perhaps were better left unsaid. He mentions that like the character Hal, he was also once a teen debater, a stutterer and also grew up in New Jersey. But then believe it or not, Blitz quickly adds that the screenplay in Rocket Science actually had not much to do with his real life experiences. He states most everything is made up or something to that extent.
I would go out on a limb here say "Blitz, you are falling into the write what you know camp on your screenplay." You remember, right? How in high school and college creative writing classes the teachers tell you over and over again to only write about things you experienced in the past. This "write what you know" factor usually drives me a bit crazy as soon as I sense it is taking place in films. However, in this case the acting and directing in the film is so good that you can give Blitz a pass.
I am giving Rocket Science a B+ overall rating, the film won't enlighten you or change your life but it is well-paced, funny in that "smart" way of being funny, and kudos again Reece Thompson, I am a fan!