Rocket Science

Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Screenwriters: Jeffrey Blitz

Institute History


Hal Hefner is a young man of few words. A high school student in Plainsboro, New Jersey, he has a persistent stutter for which he endures countless indignities at the hands of his classmates. His older brother, Earl, a directionless kleptomaniac, tells him he needs an agenda, but with none apparent, Hal takes to hiding in the school's custodial closet.

Enter Virginia Reyerson, star of the debate team. Dismissing the obvious issue of Hal's public speaking as something pent-up anger will resolve, she recruits him for the team. For Virginia, debate is life; for Hal, life is Virginia. So it seems a good match. Until it isn't.

Jeffrey Blitz's ingenious story of adolescent love and finding one's voice seems constantly to reinvent itself. Strewn with sardonic images, hilarious dialogue, wonderfully idiosyncratic expressions of character, and a narrator at pains to convey the mysterious connections of life, it evokes teenage confusion with humor and honesty. That Hal can't tell if he's motivated by love or revenge is just one amusing irony (kids making out during a debate on abstinence is another).

Blitz, whose eye for behavior was a pillar of Spellbound, shows real facility with actors, eliciting great performances from his cast, particularly Reece Daniel Thompson as Hal, who just wonders, "When does it all start to make sense?"

— John Nein

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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