I'm not telling.
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
I do think Wes Anderson is a genius from Bottle Rocket to Royal Tenenbaums: He captures loveable eccentrics more consistently than any other director. Jeffrey Blitz and his Rocket Science don't measure up, but they do provide moments of insight into teenage angst, in a decidedly figurative way that saves it from obscurity.
Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson) stutters but enters a statewide high school debate contest to prove a number of things I'm not even sure I understand. But I do get the metaphor: Many teens are introverted non-communicators who may not stutter, but their lack of confidence and all-around klutziness similarly plagues them for at least half a dozen years. Fittingly, Hal falls for the debate queen, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick), whose rapid deliveries ("spreading" in debate parlance) could slay a regiment of young men, let alone a diminutive stutterer.
There is no non-eccentric in this film, an overload even Anderson would find challenging, and the slow reclamation of Hal makes you long for the Hollywood split-second makeover. Yet the film does approach truth when it refuses to accelerate the changes in its hero. Certainly any teen would agree their characteristic diffidence lasts way too long in real time.
Mix in Election and Clueless with the aforementioned Anderson classics, and you'll get an idea what this minor film wanted to be. But then, Hal wanted to be a state debate champion, and look what happened to him. (I'm not telling.)
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com