Monday, June 22, 2015
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015)
Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written By: Jesse Andrews (Based on his book)
Cinematography By: Chung-Hoon Chung
Editor: David Trachtenberg
Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Oliva Cooke, Connie Britton, Jon Bernthal, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Matt Bennett, Masam Holden, Bobbie J Thompson, Katherine C. Hughes
Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia.
Know going into This I will be bias. As I have not only read the original novel but also loved it. Also the main character reminds me of myself same characteristics and passions. Though I think most young films fans will see something of themselves in the character and movie or at least remind some audience members of that film lover in their life.
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2012 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year.
Be careful as you go on reading this review, as this might be one of my most schizophrenic reviews in quite awhile. At least since SHE'S OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE
Of course i feel the book is better as it has room to explain more characters, actions and thoughts. It has more space and time to do that where as in a film you have to drop and condense certain aspects. Some of which are sorely missing and also help explain and illuminate some story lines and actions. For instance Jon Bernthal as a teacher who is kind of a mentor to the main characters. He just seems to be there to deliver certain speeches and situations Though never explains his exact connection nor his numerous prison looking tattoos. I get that it might let the audience come up with their own definitions. Though for a film so straight forward and direct it seems like more of a missed opportunity. The scenes shot in Greg's house are actually in the author's childhood house.
The film for all of it's quirks doesn't rely on them purely. There film is full of characters while having an being a sly character itself. It is heartwarming and tragic as most coming of age films are. For it's more outlandish elements it balances itself out with emotionally truthful scenes.
Now while the camerawork is constant and can be distracting. That makes one fear that the film will be more style than substance. That work you eventually get used to at first I thought maybe as the film has a slow build it was to keep things lively. Afraid to slow down with the material as it might bore some. Though later in the film here are plenty of scene with single long takes and shots. What I believe the reason for the camerawork is that while the film is a slow build the characters are lively, energetic and young. Their attention pulled in so many directions easily. So it makes sense the camera would be the same way. It's not annoying in let's say a Michael bay movie way. Where there is no real reason for so many cuts and the camera to constantly move even in slow scenes. Other then director bay not trusting the audience to pay attention so he chooses to keep everything moving to force you to pay attention and wonder why the camera is moving in such a way. Or presenting he camera work like the film full Of action. For him it shows low confidence. Here it feels more like it goes with the material. It also adds a surreal quality to the film. That seems to try at towns to throw you off balance as even the characters don't know what is next and shifting emotions and relations
That seems to go with the film as a whole. At first you think it will be annoying, with it's cynical voice and wise ass demeanor, but soon it reveals itself after it lets down it's guard to expose it's more sensitive qualities.
This is a huge leap from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s previous film the remake of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. while he still has a certain style that he used to try and make things seem fresh and of the moment. With this film you feel a certain maturity as he seeks to have a reason for the style to be here and explores a certain earnestness in the filmmaking. Rather than just trying to show off or make it cool. It also allows the film to be a bit more noticeable and not a slow key as one would expect. Kind of like the characters. There is a surprising depth to everything. Though it has remnants of a kind of Wes Anderson equity not as quaint, fashionable and singular. The director doesn't create a world here. Just tries to shape one that seems to intermix with known reality and situations.
The cast is uniformly great. The noticeable older character actors are good for what they bring. Even if some like Nick Offerman seem here me for name recognition. As the character in the book is explained fully. Here he is there though not needed as much and more seems here to be comic relief. In a fun that is already plenty of fun. The older cast seems here because they believe in the material, plus they help attract an audience that know their work.
The young cast works as they seem like their characters. Look and act the right age. I was especially impressed by Olivia Cooke. Who just like on the television show she appears on BATES MOTEL. Is playing a character with a terminal disease. But here she brings so much spirit and depth to her character. Not making her so much a saint or a martyr, but a real human being that you fall for her. Like the main character. This is her first regular film not having to do with Sci-Fi or Horror.
I wish there was more of RJ Cyler, as Earl as he has a relaxed acting style. That seems effortless but Powerful as he steals most of his scenes and when he is off-screen his presence is missed. His home life is part silly explained but barely explored. Maybe as it would make the films spirit go down and become more of a sad story. His character is charismatic. Yet also an enigma and u fortunately comes off as he mystical negro or stereotypical black friend. Though I hope that we see more of the young actor in the future.
The film while trying to have a different voice manages to wind up with similar angst for teenage coming of age films. Now we have seen this again and again as some teen films Focus more on a mainstream audience, but at least they can admit they lack a certain depth. This film seems to believe it has more than is actually there. While emotional and having it's heart in the right place. It also comes off as inauthentic a bunch of times. Yet we are made to feel deeper or at least more artistic by it's addition of an eclectic lifestyle of the characters.
What can across to me is that while it tries to act like it is being bold and flavorful. It come across not as rich as it presents itself. There is flavor, just not that much of it. Enough to keep you satisfied, but not as much that might have been advertised or promised.
On the plus side while it has it's more terminal disease moments. It is not a pity party it has the same exuberance and delightful spirit. Though at times it feels like the elephant in the room that sets the film within a deadline. To make sure it moves forward
Of course there will be people unhappy with some Aspects of the film. Another tale of teenage angst with a character who really has little to complain about and seems even more petty, when faced with someone else who has much more dire problems, but while that character learns from the other. He still stays more self-involved. With it's style It might be seen as turning some audience members off as it's style seems forced and this inauthentic as it seems so whimsical it seems borrowed and less realistic. Though many of the scenes and dialogue feel like they can be authentic
I might be too harsh on the film, where as you paint a picture in your mind when reading a thing and once it becomes live action or shown. If it doesn't match your vision you tend to attack or pick it apart. Maybe for all of it's earnestness it shares as part of it's self identification and identity. I am choosing to pick apart and tell it how it is influenced and complete.
The film proceeds to keep you on your toes as it tries to deflect and address any direction you think it is going to go. Then easily redirects itself Though still manages to have an impact in the direction you thought it was going to go originally.
It also borrows from BE KIND REWIND. As the characters make homage spoofs of their favorite classic films that look like sweded films. Which are more like condensed cliff notes home-made versions of the films that might differ in story line and scenes but close enough to the original.
One of the shocking things that happened with this film. Is that films of this type I am usually crying my eyes out at the end of these films that are tragic, Yet there is no real peril. It just is more of an emotional juggernaut. Where-as with this film there is plenty of peril and while I got misty no tears came. That might be because films such as the spectacular bow I read after seeing the film. Where-as here since I read the book before-hand what might have seemed surprising or original. I pretty much knew was coming. It just never managed to hit the many emotional peaks of films of it's type that have come out in recent years THE SPECTACULAR NOW, KINGS OF SUMMER, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, TERRI, FAT KID SAVES THE WORLD. Instead it really only has one that you knew is coming. So it doesn't come out of nowhere and offers very few surprised as far as that storyline.
For all the aesthetic criticizing all that matters is that the film conveys it's message accomplishes what it wishes to communicate and have it's heart in the right places. This films achieves all Of that and has a pretty fun time guiding you through it
I can understand why this movie might not be for everyone. As it seems to not explore it's downtrodden side as others of it's type might. This film is more matter of fact. With some whimsy. That doesn't desire to make the audience depressed or sad if it doesn't have to.
It's not a bad film Far from it. I just didn't love it as much as I thought i would. Though I still haven't boy recommend it and feel it is a must see.
This is definitely a film for the film lover in your life or if you are a film lover this is probably the film for you. As it expresses a passion for films and the making of them. The power of creativity and how therapeutic it can be.
Though set in modern times it has a feeling of a timeless yesterday. The only times it really feels modern is the technology of film and watching them.
It is worth watching to make up your own mind and it is worth seeing. That will becomes hallmark of a film collection. Think of it as hidden gem with conviction. That whole borrowing elements that seem familiar. Manages at points to come off with something original all it's own and when it does it is beautiful.
This is a film that made me really think and wrestle with my feelings about it. It's wonderful compared to what is being offered currently in recent cinemas. One of the better indie films. I can see this becoming a person’s favorite film and have a strong appeal for a generation.