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 : Whiplash (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Grand Jury Prize Winner at Sundance

Directed By – Damien Chazelle
Starring – Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, and Nate Lang

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Wow.

Fucking WOW.

I have only clapped at the end of one movie(which was this year…Boyhood), but now I can say I clapped to two. I couldn’t help myself. The theater couldn’t help itself. Whiplash was that good. I turned to my friend with absolute glee and shouted “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME”. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this film. The plot is simple. Andrew (Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer in the most prestigious school in the country. He is hand picked by Terrence Fletcher (Simmons) to join his competition band comprised of some of the best musicians in the country. While there are a small amount of secondary characters including the return of Paul Reiser, the film mainly focuses on the relationship between Andrew and his teacher; a relationship that grows more volatile by the second.

There just isn’t enough to say about this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t let up from the starting drum roll to the final curtain. I was captivated the entire time. I’ve had experiences with all the parties involved. I saw Chazelle’s first film “Grand Piano” earlier this year and found it to be entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Miles Teller broke onto the scene with his role in “The Spectacular Now” but is mostly known for his college party films such as “21 & Older and Project X”. JK Simmons is a brilliant character actor who was perfectly cast as Jonah Jamison in the Spiderman films and always delivers an interesting performance. All three combine to give the highlights of their careers in this film. Teller is remarkable. He completely sells Andrew’s strive to be the greatest drummer the world has ever seen. He is passionate, dedicated, and driven. Simmons is a force of nature. It is, without a doubt, the performance of the year so far. He dresses in all black. His face is stone cold and the boom of his voice is thunderous. Not even the smallest mistake makes it past his ears and of you don’t fix it on the next try, you’ll be sorry. The thing is, never was anything he did, no matter how terrifying, ever over the top. Simmons played Fletcher with a frightening sense of realism that will notch him into the lists of greatest villains of all time. This thing was full on psychological horror film for most of its running time, and I couldn’t get more of it.

The films writer/director, Damien Chazelle, knocked this out of the park. The editing was perfect. The pace was perfect. The dialogue and story were engrossing. There was symbolism in the cymbalism. The sound design was amazing. The music was amazing. The man has made a perfect film. It’s always a good thing when as soon as the credits begin to roll, I want to go out and buy a ticket to the next showing. The final 20 minutes was one of the most batshit emotional tornado I’ve ever experienced. In minutes, I was on the verge of tears to almost jumping out of my seat with excitement. His script is uplifting, scary, and ambitious. It tells the story of people who try to be the best and try to get the best out of people. If you have EVER been REALLY REALLY good at something, this film will show you just how much you have to go.

I just…can’t say enough about this film. I know this review is kind of short, but I really just can’t talk about this film in too much detail. I’ve noticed that most of the films I review that I consider fantastic pieces of film, have short reviews. I want you guys to experience these movies with a general idea of what to expect but to still be blown away by completely unexpected events. This film is not a masterpiece. This film is like your grandma’s cooking. It may be lasagna, but there isn’t a thing you can find wrong with it or a thing you would change. I can’t wait to see this again. I can’t wait for it to be released in more theaters so others can experience it.

Fuck it. This is my film of the year. So earned. It was just my fucking tempo.

5/5