EmptyPARK CITY -- "Rocket Science" defies the gravity of generic moviemaking and spun an early-morning Sundance audience into ecstatic orbit here. Catapulted by an endearing lead performance by Reece Daniel Thompson as a stuttering high-school student, "Rocket Science" transcends the predictable high-school yarn and arcs into usually unexplored domains of self-discovery and personal growth in a coming-of-age film.
With a quirky, superbly-calibrated screenplay by writer/director Jeffrey Blitz, "Rocket Science" is grounded in the doldrums of New Jersey suburban-life. Centering on the preparation for a high-school debate championship, "Rocket Science's" dramatic thrust revolves around Hal (Reece Daniel Thompson), a stuttering student who endures more than his fair share of peer-and-parental abuse. Ridiculed by an older brother (Vincent Piazza), and left adrift by a dysfunctional family system, Hal is thrown further off personal trajectory by his inability to fathom the opposite sex. With little self-esteem, he's easy prey for the school's inordinately articulate debate queen (Anna Kendrick). She spins him around and humiliates him. In essence, "Rocket Science" is a story of personal survival, amplified through the micro-cosmic dark hole of high school.
Filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz is acutely observant and sympathetic with the crash-course in life that adolescents spin through. "Rocket Science" is brainy, quirky and splendidly unpredictable. Propelled by daft doses of humor and sardonic perspectives of high-school life, it is charged by its outstanding performances. Reece Daniel Thompson's lead performance as the stuttering student is marvelously articulate in his mannerisms and vocalizations. As the manipulative, femme fatale, Anna Kendrick's cool histrionics are aptly icy, while Nicholas D'Agosto engagingly charismatic turn as her talented nemesis/ideal nicely grounds the story's perspective.
Under filmmaker Blitz's gifted guidance, technical contributions soar, most prominently composer Eef Barzelay's smartly wacky score, which splendidly counterpoints Hal's uncertain world of New Jersey teen-life.
HBO Films and Picturehouse Present
A Duly Noted Production
A B&W Films Production
Producers: Effie T. Brown, Sean Welch; Sceenwriter/director: Jeffrey Blitz; Director of photography: Jo Willems; Production designer: Rich Butler; Editor: Yana Gorskaya; Music: Eef (cq) Barzelay; Music supervisor: Evyen Klean; Costume designer: Ernesto Martinez; Casting director: Matthew Lessall. Cast: Hal Hefner: Reece Daniel Thompson; Ginny Ryerson: Anna Kendrick; Ben Wekselbaum: Nichola D'Agosto; Earl Hefner: Vincent Piazza; Coach Lumbly: Margo Martindale; Heston: Aaron Yoo; Lewis Garrles: Josh Kay; Judge Pete: Stephen Park
No MPAA Rating; Running time -- 101 minutes