New to DVD this week:
FIGURES OF SPEECH
Newport Beach 2015
Bentonville, Imperial Valley
A look at competitive high school forensics, focusing on the duo interpretation event.
While broader audiences might be familiar with the world of high school debate, other competitive speech events that take place under the same general rubric are lesser known, among them dramatic or humorous interpretation, performed by individuals, or, as is the focus in Levinson’s project, duo interpretation. Duo sees a pair of students perform a short piece of writing, often from a play, under certain constraints – notably an absence of props and a restriction on engaging in eye- or physical contact. Referred to in the doc as “competitive acting,” the event has been an early avenue of artistic expression for a number of now well-known actors or public figures. Levinson follows several duo teams – including quirky twin brothers and high school sweethearts – along the forensic competition circuit, with the goal of qualifying for, and ultimately winning, Nationals. While offering some nostalgic coming-of-age appeal, the film errs in including at least a pair of subjects too many, and in not showcasing quite enough of the teams’ actual interpretations, making for an overlong – and distracting overscored – survey that unfortunately neither fully fleshes out its characters nor the appeal of the forensic event.