Rocket Science


Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz
Written by:Jeffrey Blitz
Starring: Reece Thompson, Anna Kendrick, Nicholas D’Agosto, Vincent Piazza, Denis O’Hare, Lisbeth Bartlett
Released: June 17, 2010
Grade: A-

As the saying goes – good things come to those who wait.  My case in point is Rocket Science.  In 2003, I fell in love with an awesome documentary called Spellbound.  It was my third favourite film of that year and it has a spot in my small DVD collection.  When I heard that director Jeffrey Blitz was making another film, I was very excited.

What made it even more interesting was that Blitz’s follow up was not another documentary but rather a fiction piece he wrote himself.  According to my computer history, I downloaded the trailer for Rocket Science back in August 2007.  The film received a limited release in the U.S. later that year and made next-to-nothing at the box-office.  I didn’t expect an Australian cinematic release but I was hoping to catch it at a film festival or perhaps on DVD.  Neither scenario presented itself.

Now, seemingly out of nowhere, the film is getting its own small release in Australian cinemas.  I guess I have Anna Kendrick to thank.  This was the role which launched her career.  She subsequently went on to star in the Twilight series and earned an Academy Award nomination earlier this year for her great performance in Up In The Air.  Having her name on the posters for Rocket Science might give it the boost it needs at the Australian box-office.

The film centres on a shy teenager named Hal Hefner (Thompson) who goes to a small school in New Jersey.  Hal has always had a stuttering problem which has made it hard for him to make friends.  Life isn’t too rosy at home either with his parents recently separating.  Hal and his bullying older brother now live solely with their mother.

Out of the blue, Hal is approached by Ginny Ryerson (Kendrick), a domineering girl who leads the school’s debate team.  She sees potential in Hal and thinks he’d be perfect as her new debate partner.  Hal doesn’t know what’s going on.  He’s a dreadful public speaker.  Why would Ginny be interested in him?  Hal goes along for the ride however.  He’s developed a crush on Ginny and it’s the perfect chance to spend time with her.

So how will this tale pan out?  You’re going to have to see it for yourself.  I was worried that it would cheapen itself with a Hollywood-ised ending but not so.  It fits in perfectly with what precedes it and ends on an appropriate note.  Credit must go to Jeffrey Blitz for his script.

Anna Kendrick is terrific but the standout performance for me was Reece Thompson in the leading role.  I’d never heard of him before but he plays Hal Hefner with such adoring innocence.  You’ll be cheering for him all the way through.  I watched an interview with him on the internet and he speaks so fluently in real life.  It makes his continual stuttering throughout the film even more impressive.

These performances packaged with some great one-liners and a snazzy soundtrack all adds up to a very likeable movie.  The wait has been worth it.