Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review

Summer is in full force right now and if you couldn't tell this by looking at the calendar or walking outside, you definitely could tell by looking at the lineup at your local theater or looking at the release schedule for this month. July has a total of four major sequels being released, three of which are fifth installments. But that's not all. There's also a major spin-off movie, Marvel's 12th movie in their cinematic universe, a book adaption, a horror movie, and a couple of raunchy comedies. There was even a remake scheduled to be released this month, but Pan smartly chickened out and got pushed back to October. Yes, I do enjoy myself a good Summer blockbuster. However, I'm always on the lookout for a good change of pace and thus when a movie that was praised at the Sundance Film Festival gets a nationwide release, I'm usually on it. This year, the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film went to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Previous winners of this top award at Sundance were Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, so it's safe to say that if you're looking for a good movie that's lesser known, Sundance films are a good place to look. Last year Whiplash ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year. This year, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl should be in a similar position when I come up with my top movies of the year because it is definitely one of the best so far in my opinion.

While the subject matter that this movie deals with isn't really unique, what I did find fairly unique was the approach they took. Not many movies tell you what's going to happen right at the beginning. Right at the beginning our main character, who was also the narrator, tells us that this is a movie where him and his best friend make a movie so good that it kills a girl. I was like, wait what? Did you just spoil the movie? Shortly after we actually meet the girl, he also assures us that this character we are becoming so attached to does indeed survive. This approach continued throughout. Often we were informed of what was going to happen before it actually did happen. I found this to be a pretty interesting story-telling method. Obviously it wouldn't work very well in many movies, but in this one they pull it off. Then there's the title. Me and Earl and the DYING GIRL. You should know what you are getting into before you start. The movie is about a guy, his best friend, and a girl they meet and befriend who has been diagnosed with leukemia.

So why, you might ask, should you see a movie where the title describes the plot of the film and the movie tells you what is going to happen before it does? My answer to that is that this is a very real movie that deals with these themes in a very honest way. The movie I was thinking of the whole time was last year's The Fault in Our Stars, which was another movie that dealt with life and death themes. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed that movie, but I do have to say that I liked Me and Earl and the Dying Girl even more. There came a point early in the movie where you thought that it very well could go the exact direction of The Fault in Our Stars in that a guy and a girl meet, one of which is diagnosed with cancer, then they fall in love and become what is seemingly a doomed relationship. But no. It specifically stresses that this is not a cheesy romantic movie. And it isn't. Our main character does a good job of making peace with everyone, but he has almost no self-confidence and thus nothing overly sappy ever happens. Thus the chemistry in the movie feels a lot closer to an actual friendship that would happen in high school.

This movie also took me on quite the emotional rollercoaster. And I don't mean to say that it was super sad and depressing the whole time. I mean that there were a whole lot of different emotions throughout. This movie was actually very quirky and hilarious most of the time. The first half of this movie was an all-out comedy. I was laughing so hard and I didn't even think I was going into see a comedy. It was great. Then things happened. Tempers flared. Things got serious. You can go through all the movie cliches about life and death and still please me. The Fault in Our Stars was very pleasing for me in the messages it shared. But this one felt more real to me and thus it completely hit home. I know what it's like to deal with someone who is dying. I've also seen plenty instances of other people trying to deal with this. I won't dive into any details, but there is a whole lot that is crammed into this movie. Every scene feels very important, especially when you spend time afterwards thinking about everything. There's a lot of movies that have messages that I have appreciated. There's also a good chunk of those that I forget about several days later. That's not the case here. This one stuck with me and I have a feeling that it'll be one of those movies that won't ever leave my mind. It's been almost a week now since I've seen it and so far it has only gotten better with time.

What really makes all of it work are the excellent performances by all three of our main characters referred to in the title of the movie. Thomas Mann plays our title character, named Greg, and RJ Cyler plays his best friend Earl. I knew neither of these two going into this movie, but they had a great camaraderie as best friends and because they have known each other their whole lives, they are able to be blatantly honest with each other when the time comes, specifically Earl to Greg in the second half of the movie. The third member of this acting trio I actually do know. Olivia Cooke plays our dying girl. Coincidentally, the other role I know her in is Bates Hotel wherein she also plays a dying girl. She's rather excellent at both roles, so I suppose she's just naturally good at playing a dying girl. It would be interesting to see her in a role where she is perfectly healthy. I'm sure she's great at that, too.

Overall, in a Summer crowded with big blockbusters, if you need a change of pace from the typical Summer affair, I'd highly suggest that you give a shot to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. There's a lot of great movies that come out of Sundance and in general, I really think it's a worthwhile venture to look up some of these movies that won awards at Sundance and really give them a shot because you'll find a whole lot of hidden gems. That's the case here. Everyone is talking about movies such as Jurassic World and Inside Out this Summer. And for good reason. But I'm betting a lot of people went to the theater this weekend and didn't even think twice about seeing Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as it did enjoy an official wide release this weekend. I'm here to tell you that this is the movie you should be seeing as it's the best one in theaters at the moment and is one of the best of the year so far. In fact, there's only two movies that I've seen this year that I would put ahead of it and thus if I can convince at least one person to decide to check this gem out, then I will have succeeded with this review. My grade for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a 9.5/10.

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