Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Directed by: Michael Urie, Selma Al-Faqih, Travis Flournoy, and Sean Fornara
Synopsis: Actor comes home to follow a group of a highly talented group of teenagers as they train to participate in an acting competition.

Maybe it was me, but I really enjoyed high school. Sure, it definitely had its dramatic moments--like when a popular football player won homecoming king even though he had been suspended two days before (I mean seriously?!)--but those are few and far between. The main parts I recall with extreme fondness were the times I spent with my friends. And when I say friends, I mean my theatre group. Yes, I was a theatre junkie spending countless hours memorizing lines, learning choreography, painting sets, and dissecting scenes line by line. With as much time as I spent in the P.A.C. (that's what we called it), I couldn't help but form this intangible bond with my fellow thespians. I suspect many of you can relate whether it was something in the arts, a sports team, or an academic team. It was something special and almost impossible to recreate.

THANK YOU FOR JUDGING follows a group of students who share that bond. These kids are on the Forensics team, or as most of us know it, Speech and Debate. The film tells us a bit about the debate side, but the entire focus is on the speech or 'interp' side of the tournament. Everyone has a speciality from interpreting scenes in a duo or solo or creating your own piece called an Oratory.  We meet six different competitors from two different schools from affluent North Dallas areas. Some are favored to win, and some are the underdogs. Most are seniors, so this is their last chance. We meet them heading to the Texas Forensics Association competition.

It's fun to see the students bond with other competitors through made up games, pump each other up, and generally make the best of a very, very stressful situation. It's a difficult thing to put yourself out there in an area (art) that is so subjective. As we are shown, one judge could have completely loved the piece, while another writes how inappropriate it was for a high school student to perform.

One stand out was a young man named Mario. He calls himself poor, but poor for Plano, Texas standards. He has never really fit in anywhere until he found Forensics. There's a struggle that's apparent in Mario. He was that kid in high school who was just a little bit socially awkward but always tried to cover it by being a tad hyper or talkative. Yet, once he found his niche and focused his energy, he blossomed. He competes in the Original Oratory where the student creates their own ten minute piece about a subject close to their heart. I don't want to give away what he talks about, but he's absolutely memorizing and lovely.

The film has some pacing problems during the middle section. It became a bit disjointed when the narrative all of a sudden switched to show us a Forensics team who comes from a poor farm town. We spend about three minutes with their story. I assumed that we would meet up with them in the finals or later down the line, but we never see them again. Also, I never really felt much tension by the time the film got to the finals. Sure the kids want to win because of the time and effort they put into their pieces, but I never felt there were any dire stakes on the line.

This story could have had the audience on the edge of their seat like a great sports film. Maybe if we had followed these students from the summer while they picked their pieces, rehearsed, and struggled through the whole August through May season. Instead we're plopped down right towards the end, and the weight of the competition doesn't come across as important as it should have. The students, especially Mario, are charming enough to keep you somewhat interested and cheering for them. But unlike most sports movies, this film doesn't have you jumping out of your seat when the winners are announced.

No comments:

Post a Comment