Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz, 2007) June 12, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood.
Written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Cast: Reece Daniel Thompson, Anna Kendrick, Vincent Piazza, Nicholas D’Agosto
Wisdom consists of the ability to observe, and Hal Hefner’s wisdom rests on the tip of his tongue. That should not make him any less wise, considering his personality is not far from most high school students who grow up with a dysfunctional family, but the world is more cruel than fiction. The world fails to see that a disorder is in itself an order, a weakness is actually a strength, or a heartbreak is indeed a heart surrounded by a fortress of cushion, never to feel any pain. Fiction, on the other hand, understands that the world exists because it must, be that as it may, and showing the other way around is what it tries hard to do, less as an escape but more as an option to co-exist. Rocket Science gives an impression that high school experiences are beginnings that imply endings, that there is a part of Hal Hefner’s life that ends when he meets Ginny Ryerson, and a part of him that begins when she breaks his heart. The catch of it is that, amid the witty nastiness of Hal’s relationship with Ginny—as well as dealing with his parents, his brother, and his stepfather’s family—his coming to terms with the world that needs to be confronted is nailed with sadness. Sure thing, college comes after high school but college is also high school albeit with different people, lads and ladies who may be worse, only the excuse of calling it “high school” no longer follows. High school does not need quotation marks to make it sound special, nor it is a poor caricature of experiences common to everyone, like those films that tend to define it with nerds and jocks and cheerleaders. High school is the only time when we just need a slice of pizza to feel better, or when we have a cello thrown in someone else’s house as an idea of revenge, or when we have a sicko-brother who insists on calling us Penelope or any other girl’s name every time he wants to. At one point, Hal likens himself to a disfluent mascot who is not getting a BJ, and that’s when he unconsciously accepts the possibility of rejection, punctuating the dissonance of his stutter and a blowjob in one dialogue. He’s still figuring things out, trying to make sense of things, and certainly that’s being in high school’s legacy of all legacies—a habit that introduced us to hurt and all its friends. Upon reflection, the film feels short and forgettable because actual remembering is brief, even incoherent, but there is completeness in it—a realm of boxes better left unopened—that even if Hal’s conversation with his father happens in the beginning, it wouldn’t make a grave difference. Realizations, after all, are reminders of failure. But failure is right, and failure is better, especially when it has Clem Snide and Violent Femmes in it. Or Reece Daniel Thompson and Anna Kendrick. Or a debater like Nicholas D’Agosto.