Friday, March 14, 2008

Overlooked DVD of the month - ROCKET SCIENCE

The big city is, uh, is, is Trenton?ROCKET SCIENCE is an alpha-gamma movie. Or rather, it's a gamma-alpha movie. The opening sequence was a blatant rip-off of Wes Anderson. A Max Fisher-style character, complete with bow-tie and preppie confidence, is speaking at a school debate. This is over-laid with a self-conscious, portentious narration by an actor called Dan Cashman who sounds just like Alec Baldwin in the opening sequence of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. As we moved onto the meat of the movie, I still felt wary about the movie's derivative feel. The sound-track, shooting style, dead-pan comedy and focus on eccentricity and quirk all had me bewailing the pervasiveness and same-ness of modern American independent movies.

The good news is that once the movie settles down it becomes really rather wonderful. Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz paints a convincing picture, evidently drawing on his own experience, of a sweet, intelligent boy who can't express himself because of his stammer. Rather improbably, the school's star debater picks him to join the debating team. Our hero is thus forced to find his voice.

What I love about ROCKET SCIENCE is that the director doesn't make it a conventional triumphing-over-adversity movie. There's no magical denouement where our hero takes to the stage and, thanks to some little trick, becomes the most articulate and eloquent debater in the state. But he does find his voice in another sense: he becomes confident - active rather than passive - and while still puzzled about life and love ("it shouldn't be rocket science"), more engaged with it.

ROCKET SCIENCE played Sundance 2007, where Jeffrey Blitz won the Directing (Drama) Award. It went on limited release in the UK and US last autumn. It is now available on DVD.

1 comment:

  1. Great pick and I completely agree. One of the reasons this works so well is because of the performances from the leads. Their love/hate relationship is both mature and immature at the same time not to mention that D'Agosto's mannerisms are not only essential to the story but also add a nice dimension to the character...excellently written and played.