Rocket Science

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Posted October 1, 2007 in Film

High schooler Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D’Agosto) is such an alpha dog debator, he starts his Affirmative Statement on farming resolutions with a moment of silence. But when he chokes up during the state finals, he costs his teammate Ginny–a stern Girl Friday in Gap khakis–the championship. Inexplicably, Ginny (Anna Kendrick) chooses slender, hunched Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson) as her new, can’t-lose partner, despite a stutter that keeps Hal’s thoughts so imprisoned, he can’t even order lunch. Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz’s first film was the Oscar-nominated documentary Spellbound, which followed eight teens competing to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Here, he again shows his gift for the small details that bring his intense microcosm to life from the giant blue tubs of photocopies the students lug between auditoriums to their auctioneer patter that has the debaters sounding like the Micro Machines Man in a fight with his wife. This naturalism, however, doesn’t always extend to the script which tends to mire itself in post-millennium character quirks. Still, for all its welterweight charm, Blitz’s debut feature manages some lovely bits of angst and resonance, as when after the climax, narrator Dan Cashman wisely opines that, "Eventually, all of this would be embellished."


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