Rocket Science

Posted on January 28, 2008 at 8:00 am

Hal (Reece Thompson) has something say but he has a lot of trouble saying it. On the bus, he can practice asking for pizza, but when it comes to the moment and he is standing in the cafeteria line, he can’t quite get it out. He has a stutter, the kind of speech impediment that keeps the words stuck in his throat. People tend to ignore him. Either they are tied up in their own worries and do not realize that he deserves their attention, or they assume that because he does not talk he must not be worth listening to.


And then Ginny (Anna Kendricks) sits next to him on the school bus and invites him to join the debate team. She says she sees greatness in him. And, perhaps because of that, or just because she is hyper-articulate and sure of herself, maybe because his parents have just split up and love seems very confusing to him, all of a sudden Hal begins to feel feelings for Ginny that are seismic and shattering and uncontrollable. And so, his actions become as confused and embarrassing as his speech. He sort of stalks her. He sort of grabs her. And when he feels that she has betrayed him, he goes to any length to try to at the same time let her know he does not need her, defeat her, and win her back at the same time.


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Director Jeffrey Blitz showed sensitivity to the throes of adolescence in his award-winning documentary about the national spelling bee for middle schoolers, Spellbound. He got those kids to trust him and here, too, and he gets the most from his talented young cast. Thompson is superb, showing perception and vulnerability without seeming mannered or excessive. Kendricks, a Broadway veteran so good in “Camp,” raps out her complex speeches with devastating effect; completely compelling as someone who would bring a dozen perfectly sharpened number 2 pencils to the SATs and challenge them all the way to the Supreme Court if they tried to give her one point less than a perfect score.


The screenplay wavers at times; the structure is a little ragged, there are a couple of self-consciously quirky indie moments, and the ending a little weak. But Thompson and Kendricks and the debate scenes make this one of the best coming-of-age stories in many months.

Parents should know that there are some crude sexual references and high school situations. Characters use some strong language, a teenager smokes, and there are references to drinking and drug use.


Families who see this movie should talk about how difficult it was for Hal to find someone who could understand or help him. Why were all of the adults around him so clueless?

Families who like this movie will also appreciate Napoleon Dynamite and the award-winning spelling bee documentary directed by Blitz, Spellbound. And they will enjoy this interview with writer-director Jeffrey Blitz.

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Comedy Drama Genre , Themes, and Features Independent

Run Lola Run

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Teenagers with a taste for the offbeat will enjoy this German import about a woman who gets a frantic phone call from her boyfriend and has only 20 minutes to find 100,000 marks (about $60,000), or he will be killed by the drug dealer to whom he supposed to deliver the money. Lola (Franka Potente) and her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) live in a sort of of punk post-modern demi-mondaine. The key image of the movie is Lola, with her Raggedy Ann mop of bright red hair, running to save her beloved Manni from the drug dealer, and from himself — he has threatened to hold up a store if she cannot get him the money. When she interacts with people on her way — and in her way — we sometimes get glimpses of what their lives ahead will hold.

Lola runs to her father, who works at a bank, to ask him for the money. But he has his own problems. She does not make it in time, and the result is tragic. But Lola’s determination is such that she will not let that happen. All of a sudden, we are back in her apartment and she is getting Manni’s call again. Everything starts over, this time with tiny differences that have huge consequences for Lola and Manni and for the people around them. It takes three tries before Lola’s running is over.

The movie is fun to watch, with a lot of very clever jump cuts and effects, and it can be a nice jolt for kids who are used to pedestrian big-budget film-making. Parents should know that there is some rough street language, references to out-of-wedlock pregnancy and adultery, and that the main characters live on the edge of the underworld — the money Manni leaves on a train belongs to a drug dealer. Families may want to discuss the movie’s theme about the way that the tiniest choices and interactions can have the most wide-reaching consequences.

Families who enjoy this movie will also like “Diva.”

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Action/Adventure Crime Drama Independent Thriller
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