At this year's Sundance Film Festival, a little film called "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" won two coveted awards at the annual festival: The Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award. This is no easy feat, as not many films have accomplished this before. As soon as I saw the trailer, I was hooked. After seeing it this past weekend, not only am I not surprised at its massive success at the Utah festival, but I really cannot imagine any film that screened there that was better than this.
Greg (Thomas Mann in a star-making turn) is a high school senior who does well in school but does not really fit in with one particular "group" of people. He spends a lot of time making short films that parody classics, such as "A Sockwork Orange," with his friend (or co-worker, as he calls him) Earl (RJ Cyler). Senior year takes a major turn for him when he begins getting closer to Rachel (Olivia Cooke, one of my favorites from the intense, brilliant A&E show "Bates Motel") after she is diagnosed with Leukemia. While not a love story, the friendship becomes the most important he has ever had.
There are so many things that are great about this film. Let's start with the three main actors. Thomas Mann really hits all of the right notes as Greg. He is just a typical high school boy trying to find his place in his world. He is someone you want to meet and be friends with. Olivia Cooke is also someone to look out for. As mentioned above, she is one of the stars of "Bates Motel," one of my favorite shows currently on television. This particular role is quite a challenging role to take on. Her character starts off as an average high school girl, but as the film progresses and her condition gets worse, she is required to display quite a handful of emotions, and she does this beautifully without ever becoming too sappy. RJ Cyler is funny as Earl and makes a great friend for a guy like Greg. Not only do these three act like high schoolers, but they talk and look like high schoolers as well, which is difficult to find in films about high school these days.
The writing by Jesse Andrews is so smart, funny, and true to life. I was not aware that the film was a book before it was made into a movie (I would have read it first if I had known, but by summer's end, my goal is to read it). What's even better about this movie is that Andrews is adapting it from his own book. It's quite apparent how much he loves his story and characters. On screen, we see real, likable people who we grow to love and care about. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who has really only directed television episodes, shows a strong command behind the camera and much promise. The combination of Gomez-Rejon and Andrews is basically a dream team. I hope that they will collaborate again on future projects.
This summer, there are many films that are either big-budget sequels, reboots, or remakes. While some are good, others are dreadful, yet they make millions and millions of dollars. As I look at this weekend's box office chart, I am saddened to see that this movie only made a little over $1 million for the whole weekend, and it's total gross thus far is just over $4 million. Perhaps you are tired of reading this on my posts, but I am still appalled that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" has made so much money. Now let's look at "Jurassic World." Sure, I liked it, but I didn't think it was great or anything. It's forgettable, really only worth viewing once, and yet it has continued to be number one at the box office since its release, making over $500 million in the process. There is something wrong with this scenario.
Please spend your money on "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." I am hoping that word of mouth will help turn this into a small hit. You do not have to be in high school to enjoy it. If you love movies, you will love this. It is truly unique and unforgettable. Make sure to bring some tissues!