Thursday, July 2, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” Celebrates Life
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence. But it sure isn’t good news. So how do you handle it when you befriend someone who has just been diagnosed with leukemia?

 Well, you could make a movie.

In “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” that’s what Greg and his best friend Earl decide to do when Rachel comes into their lives.

The two Pittsburgh highschoolers are film buffs who entertain themselves by making low-budget movies in their spare time, often parodies of classic films. Take “400 Bros.,” for example.

So when Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (Ronald J. Cryler II) meet Rachel (Olivia Cooke) whose life expectancy is limited, they decide to make a film for her.

Before you say this sounds like a downer, think again. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” won both the US Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic and the Audience Award for US Drama at the Sundance Film Festival. Plus it got a standing ovation.

The film is both “darkly funny and realistically somber,” as one moviegoer put it.

Sure, all the expected high-school movie tropes are there -- from social cliques to teen angst. In addition to the trio in the title, we have Connie Britton and Nick Offerman as Greg’s awkward parents, Jon Bernthal as the archetypal cool teacher replete with tats, and Molly Shannon as Rachel’s wine-sipping mother. Even Hugh Jackman’s voice turns up on a talking Wolverine poster.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is currently celebrating life at the Tropic Cinema.

Will you like it? Depends.

An enthusiastic teenage moviegoer said, “Halfway through, I wanted to stand up and give it an ovation already. It is a brilliant film, made for those who grew up watching the cinema. I thought I was maybe delusional for thinking this could be one of my favorite films. Then, Variety said it would be a hallmark of my generation.”

Still another offered this succinct summation: “It was cool as beans.”

However, a more cynical film buff concluded, “It was better than a lot of movies targeted at teens but it’s probably not going to mean much to people older than 21.”

All of that aside, following the box-office success of “The Fault In Our Stars” -- the story of two cancer kids falling for each other -- you can count on this being a hit too. Die-hard fan of TFIOS may find it blasphemous for me to say this, but this quirky film is actually a superior cinematic experience. Kudos to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who up to now has cranked out silly TV shows. Good practice for this winning film debut about two guys and a dying girl.

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