Film Review : Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

IMDB SCORE – 7.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%
Metacritic Score – 74/100

Directed By – Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring – Thomas Mann, Olivia Cook, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, and Katherine Hughes

High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

Haven’t we seen this movie like ten times in the last couple years? Coming of age film about a couple high school kids and, *gasp*, one of them has cancer and is dying. Honestly, I didn’t care that the film was about this kind of subject matter. What I care about is can the film take such a common theme and do something different. I wanted an emotional punch but I wanted the hit to come from a different angle instead of dangling it in front of me and then predictably going right for the gut. I first heard about the film when it won the Jury Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve pretty much loved every single jury prize winner so that alone was enough to get me to watch this. I’ve been busy as hell since the beginning of the summer, so I finally got a chance to sit down and give this a view and I’ll be damned if the movie didn’t deliver a blowout blind shot that I didn’t see coming.

The film started out pretty standard. High school kids with more wit than a Monty Python sketch going to a high school that would never exist in this country…ever. If I had any problems with the film it was the few details such as this that irked me a bit. The high school was too surreal and played up. It really seemed like a high school out of a novel instead of a realistic depiction of what those years are like for kids. The overall tone of the film however did not come off fake and forced. This is mostly due to the stellar acting from the three leads, especially Mann and Cook. Olivia Cook played a dying girl better than anybody who has tried in Hollywood over the last decade and the emotional punches came from scenes that she was in. That isn’t to say that Mann didn’t deliver either. The scene where he talks about his regrets was especially moving and wonderfully well acted. RJ Cyler is a natural and the cameo parents and teachers were an added bonus. You really can’t go wrong making Nick Offerman your weird dad.

The direction and cinematography was top notch as well. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon isn’t really a well known name but I can see him being an indie favorite for a long time after this. He had help. The biggest surprise on the credits went to seeing Chung-hoon Chung as the films DP. Best known for filming pretty much everything Park Chan Wook has done, his presence was felt throughout the film with these unique filming angles that call back to films such as Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

The score of the film was also fantastic. The film took a rollercoaster right to the heart in the last 20 minutes of the movie and two pivotal scenes were punctuated by excellent song choices in “Remember Me as the Time of Day” by Explosions in the Sky and “The Big Ship” by Brian Eno. Both songs are filled with emotion and they just drove the power and emotion of the two scenes right home. It’s honestly a big reason why the film is sticking with me so much. It kind of reminds me of the end of I, Origins where music and cinematography can just send a film over the top for me. That, and the cast has to hit it out of the park, which they certainly did in this film.

There you have it. Sundance has spoken again. As mentioned before, the only real negatives of the film was some of the unrealistic and over inflated depictions of high school and some definite “I only wrote this to be unique” style dialogue. It didn’t distract though. I loved the film.

4.5/5




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Film Review : The Kings of Summer (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 76%

Directed By – Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring – Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, and Erin Moriarty

Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.

It seems like the “coming of age” story is getting a bit played out. I wanted to see this mostly because of the players involved and the fact that the trailer makes it look like a modern day “Stand By Me” but I couldn’t help being a bit bored with the whole kids learning how to be mature adults thing. “The Spectacular Now” and “The Way Way Back” complete the trio with this film to give this summer the summer of teenage angst and rebellion.

I actually ended up really loving the first half of this film. The film follows Joe, played by Robinson, and Patrick, played by Basso, as they go trough their strange home lives in search of a way out. A party that gets busted up leads them to a spot far out in the woods where they decide to escape too and build a house. Biaggio, played hilariously by Arias, tags along and the three set out to get supplies for their summer.

A lot of people are bashing this film for being a bit pretentious but I honestly didn’t see it. I didn’t take the moral lessons that the film was throwing out by the end of the film so it really didn’t matter much to me that it came off a bit derivative and contrived. It was a just a funny film about kids experiencing their own summer. Moises Arias honestly should be in more things. He was easily the best thing about this film and stole every single scene. He might be the funniest person I’ve seen in a film all year. The rest of the cast did a great job and you just can’t go wrong with Nick Offerman. The second half of the film just couldn’t keep up with the humor and charm of the first half as the drama of the situation became just too much for me. I wouldn’t say it ruined the film for me but it certainly took points away.

I can’t blame the film though. I have horrible problems ending things.

3.5/5