Review by Jack Foley
WRITER-director Jeffrey Blitz shot to prominence when his excellent documentary Spellbound captured the public’s imagination and earned an Oscar nomination in the process.
His follow-up tells the fictional story of High School student Hal (Reece Daniel Thompson), who is persuaded to overcome his nervous stutter by joining a rapid-fire debating team led by Ginny (Anna Kendrick), an alluring star performer who Hal has long since admired.
Far from being the confidence boost he was seeking, Hal is suddenly forced to overcome his insecurities in the glare of the debating spotlight, especially when Ginny’s real motives become ruthlessly clear.
Rocket Science is amiable enough without ever really firing the imagination like Spellbound did.
It’s driven by a smart, assured performance by Thompson and features some nice support from Aaron (Disturbia) Yoo and Kendrick.
But it sometimes struggles to escape its indie quirkiness and stutters towards an ambiguous conclusion that can feel as awkward as its lead character.
Blitz deserves credit for refusing to conform to typical coming-of-age stereotypes or a big happy ending but he also struggles to escape the suspicion that in trying to be a little too clever, he’s also made things pretentious – an issue not helped by a voiceover narration that feels lifted from The Royal Tenenbaums.
Rocket Science works best as a curiosity piece that will appeal most to those with a quirky sensibility. But once finished, it drifts far too quickly from memory.
Running time: 100mins