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|Directed by||Jessica Sharzer|
|Produced by||Fred Berner
Annie Young Frisbie
|Screenplay by||Jessica Sharzer
Annie Young Frisbie
Laurie Halse Anderson
Robert John Burke
D. B. Sweeney
|Music by||Christopher Libertino|
|Edited by||Mark Bennett
|Distributed by||Showtime Networks Inc.|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Speak is a 2004 American independent film based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson. It stars a then 13-year-old Kristen Stewart as Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman who practically stops talking after being raped by a senior student. The film is told through Melinda's eyes and is wrought with her sardonic humor and blunt honesty. It was broadcast on Showtime and Lifetime in 2005 after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004.
Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart) starts out her freshman year in high school struggling on the first day and being labeled as a "squealer". A series of flashbacks reveals that she called the police to a house party during the previous summer. Her real reason for calling 9-1-1 was that she was raped at the party by a senior student, Andy Evans (Eric Lively). While on the phone, she was unable to talk to the police about what happened and when the police arrived, she did not report the rape. The party was crashed, causing mayhem and everyone to flee from the police.
When her parents see her report card, they prompt her to see Mr. Neck (Robert John Burke), who tells her to write an essay on any history topic. After refusing to read her paper aloud to her class, she gets sent to the office of the school principal. Melinda is nice to a new student named Heather Billings (Allison Siko), who claims to be Melinda's "friend", but Heather abandons Melinda when the chance for social advancement arises. The only other student with whom Melinda has a positive experience is her lab partner Dave Petrakis (Michael Angarano), who has successfully managed to keep from affiliating himself with a clique.
As the year progresses, Melinda begins a painfully slow recapture of her confidence, with some help from Dave and her art teacher Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn). Her former friend Rachel Bruin (Hallee Hirsh) starts dating Andy, and as the only other person who knows about the event, Melinda fears that Rachel will suffer the same fate. Melinda finds Rachel at the library and tells her the truth about what happened at the party by writing it on paper. At first Rachel refuses to believe her, thinking Melinda is lying and calls her "sick", but comes to realize the truth by confronting Andy. Rachel begins to tell other people about what happened and Andy comes after and begins to attack Melinda.
He corners her, making false statements that he did not rape her and forces her to tell everybody at school that the incident is false, and she struggles to get free. They are found by one of her old friends and a group of girls. Mr. Neck sees Melinda walking away from the scene and asks what was going on, but Melinda doesn't respond. On the way back from the hospital after being treated for her injuries, Melinda rolls down the window of the car, breathing in deeply. She finally finds the strength to tell her mother the truth about what happened at the party. Although it is clear that Melinda will still need time to fully recover from her ordeals, this is a significant and empowering event in her life, as she finally finds the courage to speak.
- Kristen Stewart as Melinda Sordino
- Michael Angarano as David Petrakis
- Robert John Burke as Mr. Neck
- Hallee Hirsh as Rachel Bruin
- Eric Lively as Andy Evans
- Elizabeth Perkins as Joyce Sordino
- D. B. Sweeney as Jack Sordino
- Steve Zahn as Mr. Freeman
- Allison Siko as Heather Billings
Producer and screenwriter Annie Young Frisbie read the novel and successfully made a bid to get the rights to a film version. Production took place in Columbus, Ohio because a production partner, Matthew Myers, was relocating there with his wife.
Film production took only 21 days in August 2003. Flooding during an especially heavy summer rain caused filming to be temporarily postponed and during that time author Laurie Halse Anderson visited the set with her daughter. Anderson herself cameos in the film as the lunch lady who gives Melinda the mashed potatoes.
The school scenes for the movie were shot at Eastmoor Academy on the east side of Columbus.
The New York Times was skeptical of the film. Though reviewer Neil Genzlinger praised the work of Stewart and Steve Zahn, he concluded that, overall, the cast was populated with "dismaying caricature[s], so much so that it costs the movie some credibility," and that the film "comes nowhere near capturing the wise, subtle tone of the book."
Differences from the novel
- In the novel, Melinda meets Heather when Heather finds a seat in the auditorium. In the film, they meet on the bus. The auditorium scene is cut altogether.
- In the novel, Melinda was raped in the woods behind the location of the party. In the film, she was raped in Andy's car.
- In the novel, Melinda writes on the bathroom stall, "Guys to stay away from: Andy Evans." She returns later to find that other people have added incidents of victimization. This was cut altogether.
- At the end of the novel, Melinda speaks to Mr. Freeman about her being raped, whereas in the movie she tells her mom about it.
- In the novel Rachel and Andy are seen to break up at prom, but in the movie they break up in Andy's car. The prom scene was cut altogether.
- In the novel Melinda receives extra credit after biting into an apple during her science class.
- In the novel Mr. Neck gives the extra credit assignment as an option for the whole class, however, in the film Mr. Neck gives the assignment to Melinda only.
- In the novel there was a scene in which Andy was seen at in the school's parking lot, and he confronted Melinda. In the movie this scene is cut out.
- In the novel there is a scene in which the dead tree branches are cut and a talk that reflects how Melinda is changing, in the film the part is acknowledged, but the conversation is cut.
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