24 November 2015 | Ddey65
Laura Marano's star power is the key to it's appeal, but it's the story that makes the movie worthwhile.
Let's face it; The main reason this indie flick has any attention in the first place, is because it stars Laura Marano of Austin & Ally fame. As talented as she is, it's the movie itself that makes it worth watching, because it contains an unusual subject matter with interesting characters.
Amy Hartington (Michelle Clunie), a news producer in CNN-type network in New York City is about to go on another assignment, nearly halfway across the world, when she gets a message demanding that she takes care of some legal matter with her old high school teacher (Kathleen Wilhoite) back home in Lafayette, Louisiana. For some reason, this teacher declared her next of kin, even though they aren't related. When she finally arrives at the teacher's house, the woman is on her deathbed being taken care of by various visiting nurses, one of which is ending her shift. After a drunken dream about her youth, she tells her teacher the story of how she got to join the debate team in high school, and for most of the rest of the movie, her character is played by Laura Marano, and the movie is set in the mid-1980's. I personally remember a title card indicating she joined the team to be with a boy we don't actually see, which makes me think it might've been for an early draft of the script.
As a teenager, Amy practically made a second home out of her 1972 Pontiac Catalina coupe. She was also hassled excessively by her older siblings because she was an adopted child. She recently joined the speech and debate department at her high school, and is about to be recruited for a debate camp program of some kind along with a boy she likes named Nick (Parker Mack), who is supposed to be the ultimate debater. They also bring in an important team member named Rosa Conti (Katherine McNamara) who tries to help Amy with the debate squad. While Amy listens to pop-musicians such as The Go-Go's, Rosa is into what was considered edgier bands at the time such as The Smiths and The Cure. She also insists that the best way not to get choked up during a debate is to use music, and Amy's reply is "I don't sing." I just love the irony of that line.
Meanwhile, the boy she loves is about to get an internship from the very cable news network she's working for today, and Amy is convinced the only reason he's getting it is because he's a white male. Her teacher, played by Marcus Lyle Brown wants her to let the issue slide. Amy thinks she's preventing her would be suitor from winning these debates, but in reality, it's his parents who are holding him back, specifically his father. Nevertheless, a big debate championship is coming to New York City, and Amy's teacher sends all the members including Nick who she thinks has permission to go on the trip. Once they finally arrive in the city, she meets some other debaters, and some student film makers, one of whom briefly falls for her. She also gets a call from her teacher telling her that her boyfriend's father has rejected permission, and demands that she sends him home, but she refuses. Nick also helps Amy deal with the potential reuniting with her biological mother, but can she handle it?
This is not the first movie to focus on the debate teams. Back in 1989, Kirk Cameron and Jami Gertz starred in a long forgotten teen flick called "Listen to Me," about college debate teams. This one is still in limited release as of this writing, and I actually had to drive a long distance to see it (don't ask how long). Since I'm the first IMDb user to post a review, I don't want to spoil too much from this. I will say that it's not necessarily as kid-friendly as Laura's best known role, but that shouldn't dissuade you from seeing it. Try to find it at the nearest film festival to you, and if it isn't part of one, see if you can't persuade them to add it.