On April 7th, 2017, the world was blessed with what I am already calling to be the greatest teen movie of the year. Your typical coming of age stories deal with issues that are extremely poignant in high school. While many of us enjoy the aesthetic of these movies, most of us are no longer in high school, and thus can't relate anymore. "Speech & Debate", breaks these age barriers, and explores topics that are prominent in the teenagers years and far beyond graduation.
"Speech & Debate" introduces us to three students who for varying reasons, all desire to be heard by the adults in their lives. At first glance, our protagonists are walking stereotypes; the thespian, the loner, and the gay. It doesn't take long, however, to delve deeper into these characters as they coordinate a debate team with some persuasion in the form of cameo appearances by Darren Criss, Lin Manuel-Miranda, and Gideon Glick. All students are frustrated with the censorship and restrictions brought on by the school board. Diwata (Sarah Steele), the thespian, is part of a theatre program that isn't allowed to produce an uncut version of the musical, "Once Upon a Mattress". The loner, Soloman (Liam James), can't publish the content he's actually interested in for the school paper. Last but not least, Howie (Austin Mckenzie), the gay, is denied permission to start a Gay Straight Alliance at his new school.
Dan Harris and Stephan Karam do a remarkable job of creating a film that forces you to think, without you even realizing you're doing it. The credits didn't roll leaving me questioning all of my previous beliefs and morals. The film gave me an opportunity to either agree with the kids, the adults, or have a difference opinion of my own. It was part of the process of the movie, and it never took me out of the story.
The chemistry between the leads is impeccable, and we can truly see it grow as their bond thickens throughout the film. Each of them shine on their own, as well. Also featuring Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Spring Awakening), Janeane Garofalo (Reality Bites, Wet Hot American Summer), and plenty more incredible talents, this is one of the greatest ensemble casts we've seen in a long time.
The film is available to rent or buy on iTunes and Google, and I highly recommend you take advantage of that immediately (I did at midnight the day it was released).
Here's to hoping a line from this ends up on the back of the DVD cover. Here's a few cliched, yet true quotes in case what's above isn't good enough for you, Sycamore Pictures: "Harris's vision is remarkable!" "Best movie of the year!" "★★★★★" "Can't wait to see McKenzie take home the Academy Award!" "Greatest film since Shawshank Redemption!" "Spectacular!"