Based on the award winning novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, "Speak" unfolds a story about Melinda (Kristen Stewart), a smart and spirited high school freshman who retreats into self-imposed silence after she is raped one ni... more »ght at a party. Feeling isolated from her classmates and from her preoccupied mother Joyce Sardnino (Elizabeth Perkins), Melinda retreats further in an attempt to escape the torments of high school. It is only through her work in art class with the help of her compassionate art teacher Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn) that she begins to reach out to others and eventually finds her own voice and inner strength. A feature debut of director/co-writer Jessica Sharzer, "Speak" resonates with stubborn honesty and sardonic humor as we follow Melinda on her journey from traumatized isolation to a brave and final triumphant disclosure.« less
Sharon C. (Sierrastar) from BLYTHEWOOD, SC Reviewed on 1/9/2011...
At first I was not sure I was going to like this movie or not but as the movie rolled I got more and more into it and it was worth the watch. I loved the ending but won't reveal it and spoil it for anyone but I was not expecting what happened at the end and everything came together then. Worth the watch!!
Fantastic coming out role for young Kristen Stewart
Patrick L. Randall | Silver Spring, MD | 02/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Speak" tells the story of a girl, Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart), who made it through the end of the difficult middle school years as one of the popular girls. She does not appear to be conceited or stuck up; she's only just a girl who enjoys the fact that she and her girlfriends are well thought of and the center of the social scene. That all changes for Melinda at a summer party thrown at a friends house where she gets friendly with a popular high school jock only to be shockingly date raped by him. In her shock after the rape, Melinda tries to call the police from the party house, but that just leads to the cops showing up and breaking up the party and getting a lot of Melinda's friends in trouble. Not knowing why Melinda really called the police leads her group of friends, especially her best friend Rachel (Hallee Hirsch) to ostracize her in the way that kids that age lash out at anything that they don't understand and challenges their socially accepted norms. Melinda is also hindered by the fact that her parents, despite clearly loving her, are too caught up in their own issues to recognize that their daughter just underwent a tremendous trauma. When high school begins that fall, Melinda selectively chooses to remain a mute while enduring the hateful behaviors of her former friends (including Rachel, who is now dating the guy that raped Melinda). Yet, slowly, through finding herself through an art class with and an art teacher (Steve Zahn) that truly inspire her, Melinda manages to recover and find a new sense of self and confidence and even resolution to the events that have plagued her. "Speak" has all the makings of a typical after school special that is rife with pretentiousness and pat resolutions. Yet, it manages to transcend that genre and make for a truly moving film. The performance of Kristen Stewart and, to a lesser extent, Steve Zahn, is truly remarkable. Zahn is a known quantity in Hollywood and his performance as art teacher, Mr. Freeman, is full of the pathos we've come to expect from him. Stewart, who was only 13 when she filmed this role, is simply stunning. She took a role that actress three times her would find daunting and, not only fulfilled it, but so thoroughly mastered it, that she made it her own. It's ironic that Stewart played Jodie Foster's daughter in the hit thriller "Panic Room", because she evokes memories of a Jodie Foster from 30 years ago. Stewart has the same physical look and mannerisms and definitely shows the potential to have the same acting talent. I look forward to seeing more films starring Kristen Stewart. I think she will turn out to be a real Hollywood gem and, anyone who has seen "Speak", will remember the exact moment when Kristen Stewart gave notice that she had arrived. "
Kristen Stewart Should Have a Lot of Fans After This
Only-A-Child | 09/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my review a year ago of "Catch That Kid", I referred to Kristen Stewart as a young Portman/Knightley. Most people thought I was going a bit overboard but with her performance in "Speak" I feel even more confident of my assessment. Although "Speak" was shot within a few months of "Catch That Kid" Stewart looks considerably older, with the Portman/Knightley connection even more obvious. Her understated performance as Melinda Sordino is absolutely riveting. Stewart's performance is critical to this film because she is not just the central character but also the narrator, the entire story is told from her point of view.
Cinematographer Andrij Parekh gets maximum effect from the camera as the film is filled with tight shots of Stewart's face and eyes. Director Jesseca Sharzer gets an incredible non-verbal performance from Stewart which is nicely offset by the voice-over narration. Like the narration in "The Opposite of Sex" and "Girl" this helps relieve the intensity and introduces some wry humor into the story. I particularly liked Stewart's offhand voice-over on her way to the principal's office: "I forgot that the suffragettes were hauled off to jail, duh".
Melinda's flat and distanced narration is often contradicted by the crushing emotional trauma she is experiencing on the screen, this dichotomy is a very effective way to illustrate her inner strength and multi-dimensionality.
Parekh complements his close work with interesting short focal transitions and some good exterior shots. One especially nice one is when Stewart is walking in the distance and the focus slowly changes to highlight a bee and a flower in the foreground.
Like "Welcome to the Dollhouse", the adult roles are a bit extreme but the student roles are very convincing.
Interestingly, the climatic scene actually occurs about 15 minutes before the ending. Melinda's rejuvenation happens during her impromptu hospital visit, her voiceover reflects this change: "It happened. There's no avoiding it. No forgetting." Strong again she dumps Heather, plays a killer set of tennis, and bicycles to the scene of last summer's party where she confronts what happened to her and decides to tell Rachel. The tree that inspired her painting helps tie everything together.
Virtually everyone should find this film engrossing, but it will especially appeal to those who like to see their heroines get stronger as a story progresses.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
NOTES ON THE ADAPTATION: A personal visualization process occurs when reading a book that often makes its movie adaptation less powerful and less enjoyable. But it also affords the opportunity to focus on understanding why the screenwriter, director, and editor choose to use, alter, or omit each element in the book. Adaptations are all about economy and efficiency as they try to tell the same essential story visually and often symbolically.
In the case of "Speak", I think the movie is more powerful than the book as you feel Melinda's trauma more, even if you don't understand it as precisely. The visuals of Melinda's emotional battles are more powerful than any narrative; as are the visuals of her drawings and of the process of her growing stronger as the story progresses.
The adaptation shows Melinda's parents more positively but still portrays them as disinterested. The key scene is Christmas morning. Watch how after receiving the art supplies Melinda is pleasantly stunned that her parents were actually aware that she was drawing, then quickly disappointed when they disconnect and start their own conversation about the stereo system, which brings on the flashback of them not being there when she returned home from the party.
They wonderfully condense the process of Mr. Freeman connecting with Melinda, the key scene is when he and Ivy are discussing her art project with the turkey bones and the palm tree. Melinda is seated as they come into the frame from both sides. The camera is static as they discuss the project until just before Mr. Freeman says the word "pain". At that point they cut to a tight reaction shot of Melinda's face as the word registers and her eyes look up at him in surprise. With that short sequence they manage to communicate about 50 pages of narrative and to say all that is needed about the special relationship that Melinda and Mr. Freeman will develop. The viewer is shown not just that he is picking up her pain from the symbolism in her art work, but more importantly that she now realizes there is someone who is tuned in and interested in her welfare. This little sequence is truly inspired and a great illustration of the visual power of film. "
DaveP | USA | 11/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the IMDB to see what D.B. Sweeney had been up to lately. Looking through his recent spotty filmography, Speak came up. I read the synopsis and it seemed like something I might enjoy, story-wise and cast-wise (big fan of Steve Zahn as well and was fairly impressed with Stewart's role in Panic Room). I decided to give it a shot and was glad I did, as it has given me quite a memorable movie experience.
Melinda Sordino (Stewart) is a high school freshman, who was once a bright, happy student. One night a terrible event occurs that instantly changes that and simultaneously ostracizes her from her peers. School, is now a torment for her as she has no one to relate to or confide in (her parents (Sweeney & Elizabeth Perkins) are caring but unaware of her issue and oblivious to her). She regresses and rarely speaks to anyone, even to the few who try to reach out to her. One person does manage to break through, her new art teacher, Mr. Freeman (Zahn), who gets Melinda to slowly express her emotions through her art projects. She tries to regain the confidence to open back up and ultimately break free of the shell she has created for herself.
This movie is definitely not a feel-good flick, but the screenplay (adapted from the same-titled book) affords some light moments (usually from Melinda's observations through her inner monologue and rare interactions in the classroom). Stewart is truly the revelation here as she perfectly nails the depressed and isolated role of Melinda and can deftly handle the couple of pretty harrowing incidents that occur. She is definitely one to watch for in the future. Zahn, usually cast for comedic parts, pulls off his best performance. The scene towards the end of the movie between Mr. Freeman and Melinda in her "safe place", was enough to bring me to tears, even though there were barely any words spoken. Just perfect. "
Sarah White | Mosul, Iraq | 08/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like another reviewer, I too started to watch this movie in the wee hours of the night. Unlike the other viewer, I cried non stop throughout the whole movie. This movie has a theme winding through it where the girl is so drawn inward, possibly for emotional self preservation; that I was physically in pain for her. This is an example of how excellent her acting was. The title being "Speak", it could have just as well been titled OPEN YOUR EYES!!!! She had loving parents, good friends and capable teachers that saw her do a total 360 degree turn in lifestyle, dress, attitude, grades.....and rather than sit down and open their mouths asking "what is going on, how can we help, WE LOVE YOU".....she became almost invisible right in front of them. The characters throughout this movie were excellent. The ex best friend who invited her to lunch, to tell her she didnt want to have lunch with her any more. The jerk teacher who arrogantly was going to MAKE her talk, apparently to pet his own ego rather than to HELP her. The boy, a classmate who although his character was not thoroughly developed, he was a constant normal prescence in her life. He did not chastise her for changing. He did not pressure her to talk. He did not humiliate or tease her. He did not try to take advantage of her emotional vulnerability, yet he did nothing really extraodinary other than be there. When this movie was over, I was exhausted from the roller coaster ride of emotions. I did not know the name of the movie, but I did an Amazon search based on the one actress whose name I knew. Elizabeth Perkins. I recognised DB Sweeney as the dad but could not remember his name. I decided I was going to buy three copies of this film as soon as I could. One for each niece and one to place in the library of the High School I once attended. This seems to me, to be a perfect way to introduce to teens the seriousness of date rape. This movie shows this, and it does so in a series of flash backs weaved throughout the movie so that you eventually see what happened, but not in a shocking over the top scare tactic way. It could also be used as a tool to help show victims that they do not have to suffer in silence, but they can get help, live through it and eventually be OK. And like all other good movies......without ruining it for you....there are a few "YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!!!'s""