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 'SPEAK' HAS POWERFUL VOICE - A review from a TOP movies critic

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Join date : 2010-04-25

PostSubject: 'SPEAK' HAS POWERFUL VOICE - A review from a TOP movies critic   Sat Sep 11, 2010 9:15 pm


Daily News

Monday, September 5th 2005, 7:00AM

SPEAK. Tonight at 9, SHOWTIME. 2.5 STARS.

Quote :
Based on Laurie Halse Anderson's popular book, the new telemovie "Speak" - televised simultaneously tonight at 9 by Lifetime and Showtime - looks at the imposing, often unfriendly world of high school through the eyes of a freshman girl.

It has elements of "My So-Called Life," but with one critical central plot point that differs.

In "Speak," the teenager in question is ostracized by her peers for calling 911 during a wild summer party. She made the call for a reason she never reported - that she had just been date-raped by an older classmate.

Melinda, played by Kristen Stewart, elects to tell no one - not her parents (Elizabeth Perkins and D.B. Sweeney), not her inspirational art teacher (Steve Zahn), not even her former or current friends.

Instead, she returns to school accepting her role as pariah, and even preparing for it by painting ghoulish, mummy-like straight lines vertically across her lips.

It's a gripping opening scene. Like so many scenes in "Speak," though, a scene that's gripping is followed by one that loses its grip completely.

Every time writer-producers Jessica Sharzer (who also directed) and Annie Young Frisbie craft a touching, credible moment (like Melinda responding quietly but proudly to her art teacher's praise), they follow it with one that plays falsely and poorly (her dad chopping a frozen turkey with an ax).

Though the story is uneven, one element is constant: a terrific, brooding lead performance from Stewart. She played Jodie Foster's brave daughter in "The Panic Room," and is just as impressive here.

Zahn, Perkins and even Sweeney all register, too, but with much less screen time. Perkins, in fact, is strongest when working without dialogue, simply by reacting to those around her.

"I wonder how long it would take for anyone to notice if I just stopped talking?" Melinda asks herself at one point. She doesn't keep it up long, but it allows her to indulge in the interior monologues that make "Speak" both tender and funny.

When she finally does speak - through her art, words and actions - there's a sense of catharsis, but not always a sense of credibility.

Yet as a modern sort of "After-School Special," or as an even more serious treatment of the date-rape issue explored last year in "Veronica Mars," "Speak" deserves to be seen by a teen audience.

And Kristen Stewart deserves to be seen by everyone.


Lua Cheia
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