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Rocket Science 

click to enlarge 36_0012_rocketscientist.jpg

Socially awkward high schooler Hal (Reece Daniel Thompson) is recruited for the debate team by its aggressive star, Ginny (Anna Kendrick). One big problem: Hal's got a dreadful stutter. Enamored with Ginny, Hal presses painfully on. Jeffrey Blitz's indie dramedy presents the usual panoply of horrible adolescence -- bad parents, bland suburbs, painful romance, nerdy friends, awful siblings -- but his bittersweet take feels fresh thanks in part to Thompson's endearing performance as the tormented Hal and the story's slightly absurd vibe. Blitz, whose earlier work was Spellbound, a documentary about nerd-student-performance, fills Rocket Science with great moments that feel both real and off-kilter -- a dreadful school counselor, a drunken bike ride and an unattainable slice of pizza. You'll root for Hal -- he's a sweet kid undone by naïve earnestness -- but refreshingly, Blitz doesn't go for any easy inspirational grabs, instead wrapping up with just the tiniest of triumphs. Squirrel Hill

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