According to Sean Astin’s character in the indie flick “Thanks to Gravity,” Debate Coach Amal, one of the keys to winning a debate is cramming as many arguments into your allotted time as possible, which means each debater must speak so fast they’ve phonetically eliminated all periods, commas or anything else that would slow down their speech, with the simple hope of overwhelming your debate opponent with a barrage of arguments.
In a way, “Thanks to Gravity” itself is applying this tactic, as it throws numerous characters and storylines at the moviegoer. The film centers around Jordan Linda (Gina Philips) as she follows her dream of becoming a great speaker by entering the world of competitive debating and while the story starts off like the “Bring it On” of the debate world, it gradually morphs into a character piece that focuses on Jordan’s rebellious spirit, her Latino Jewish roots, and finding the right guy. We actually watch Jordan’s life take a long 2 to 3 year tangent from the debate realm as she’s kicked off the Harvard Debate Team, and struggles with her family for independence. All while an annoyingly attractive Elias (played by Adam Rodriguez of “CSI Miami”) tries to win over Jordan’s heart with all his machismo, and when that doesn’t work he tries respect and sincerity.
The third quarter of the movie completely focuses on Jordan’s family and it’s almost as if she had never been a competitive debater, and that would be a somewhat refreshing development if it weren’t for the family’s lack of definition. Each family member only really gets one or two scenes with Jordan and unfortunately we never get to know them enough to see them as anything but a cliché.
However, during the rest of the movie, when Director/Writer Jessica Kavana (who also cameos as an incredibly fast-tongued debater) brings us into to the nerdy and bizarre debating realm, the movie glides into it’s own. We’re introduced to poignant threads that highlight the depth and strength of Jordan’s not-often-seen quiet side. And the characters are both novel and unique such as Austin (Chris Mulkey), the Harvard Debate Coach, who looks and acts like he came straight off a Texas ranch, cowboy hat and all. I can’t help wishing there had been more exploration into this world, and less of a tangent with the disappointing family drama.
After all is said and done, however, the post-feminist nature of this tale, in that Jordan is both pursuing true love and her career dream, redeems the film by letting Philips unearth a heartfelt and relatable character built up by the variety of minor characters around her. And although all Jordan’s escapades can be overwhelming “Thanks to Gravity” eventually wins you over like one of her debate arguments.