Rocket Science

Indie underdog yarn that manages to feel fresh

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Filmed outside her home near Joshua Tree, California

Dir: Jeffrey Blitz | St: Reece Thompson

If you’ve been following recent US indie cinema, [i]Rocket Science[/i] may seem a little familiar. The story of a teen outsider with a small but, in his high-school world, debilitating affliction (a stammer) it uses all the ammo in the [b]Sundance[/b] movie armoury – separated parents, weird stepbrothers, barking neighbours – to create yet another white-picket survivalist fable, scored with the obligatory alt.rock soundtrack ([b]Broken Social Scene[/b] and [b]The Violent Femmes[/b] do the honours).

But in much the same way that [i]Little Miss Sunshine[/i] gathered up all the available indie tropes and boiled them down to an accessible, near-[b]Oscar[/b]-winning package, so [b]Jeffrey Blitz[/b]’s debut creates something affecting and original out of such seemingly well-worn material. Central to its success is the artless [b]Reece Thompson[/b] as Hal Hefner, the dweeb inducted into the school debating team by the not-as-philanthropic-as-she-seems Ginny Ryerson ([b]Anna Kendrick[/b]), and his attempts, not always successful, to regain his dignity.

Although the film builds to a kind of [i]Rocky[/i]-style showdown, [b]Blitz[/b] doesn’t follow the usual route for the standard underdog movie. Where other indies trumpet an idealistic right-will-prevail philosophy, [b]Blitz[/b] is brave enough to wonder if it won’t, and the gamble pays off in this warm, funny comedy’s poignant last moments.

[b]DAMON WISE[/b]

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