Rocket is a bittersweet fairy tale set in the world of 1950’s dirt track racing, a strong character piece with real vintage race cars, and a woman behind the wheel of them. This film, directed by Brenna Malloy and produced by Sarah Hulsman, is currently sweeping the film festival circuit. Most impressive, is that the film won a Student Academy award. A bronze medal in the narrative category.
The bright vibrant story opens with a lively score by Andrew Scott Bell and compelling visuals by Nick Ramsey. Looking at the cars, the track and the spot on production design by Rahma Farahat, the film hooks you instantly. A race is soon underway, and a young girl looks on with binoculars, beaming.
When an unfortunate event happens during the race, the story moves ahead in time. Little Richard playing on the radio, and the track is a shadow of its former glory. Without telling too much more, I will say this short is one of the finest I have ever seen.
There is a bit of a Speilbergian or Zemeckis feel to the proceedings, and Bell’s score is a perfect marriage with Ramsey’s visuals. The cinematography of the beautiful vintage cars is truly, for lack of a better term, car porn. But the only dirty scenes are the earthy kind. There is a real love of racing in this film.
The thrill of speed is usually on a paved road, and Rocket explores the dirt track, which can be just as thrilling and dangerous as the paved cousin. Days of Thunder this is not. This film inspires women to be in the driver seat, and in true genre fashion, explores a budding relationship between a woman, a man and a machine.
The woman and man are played by Lizzie Clarke and Cameron Diskin, respectively. The performances are solid, and the chemistry between the two is genuine. This story has many layers built into its short time frame, but tells volumes with some of the quieter scenes and no dialogue.
Just by coincidence, I felt a tinge of Joe Johnston’s Rocketeer. However where that film from 1991 is pure adventure serial fantasy, this story is more grounded in a reality.
The only flaw I found with the film was the ending. I was so engaged in the story, that it truly felt like a feature film opening. When the film ends, I was hungry for more. If the quality that Malloy and the team put forward on this film is any indication, we will see many great films soon. And the appetite that Rocket developed, will feed us great stories.