x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rocket Science

Jeffrey Blitz invokes the spirit of Hal Ashby's quiet comedies in more than just his hero's name. It is present in every honest nuance of his wonderfully observed characters.

Reece Thompson:
Reece Thompson: "It's not Rocket Science!"


A first feature of a very different kind is the subject of another of this week's DVD releases. The fictional film debut by the director Jeffrey Blitz picks up pretty much where his charming, Oscar-nominated 2002 documentary, Spellbound, left off. He's absorbed the quirks and tics of the teens of his prior film -but instead of the US National Spelling Bee, this time the competition in question is the state debate championships. Hal (Reece Thompson) is a skinny New Jersey kid with a near-debilitating stutter, who is, bizarrely enough, recruited onto the debate team by the mile-a-minute talker Ginny (Anna Kendrick). Slowly, and despite his struggles to order pizza in the lunch queue, Hal begins to believe that somehow he will manage to deliver a dynamite performance at the tournament. As his hope blooms, so does ours. Blitz invokes the spirit of Hal Ashby's quiet comedies (Being There, Harold and Maude) - albeit in a slighter form - in more than just his hero's name. It is present in every honest nuance of his wonderfully observed characters. Then there is the alt-country singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay's score. "Hey where is this bus going?" he asks on I Love the Unknown. Blitz's smartest move is to never try to answer Barzelay back.
afeshareki@thenational.ae