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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Jun. 28, 2015 5 years ago

Film Review: 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'

This movie will tug at your heartstrings and tickle your funny bone like no other.

"A little friendship never killed anyone" is the tagline for the fantastic new film, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl." And although both are somewhat off-putting, this movie will tug at your heartstrings and tickle your funny bone like no other.

"Me" would be Greg (Thomas Mann) who narrates his "doomed friendship" with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) after she's diagnosed with leukemia. Initially, he's dead set against it but his mother, who's "the Lebron James of nagging," insists. During Greg's initial encounter with Rachel, he finds that they have a unique chemistry. He's self-deprecating and she needs distraction.

Earl (R.J. Cyler) is Greg's "co-worker." Although they've been friends since childhood, Greg prefers the more lax nomenclature. Their partnership involves making spoof shorts of classic art films. And they are creatively hilarious. "Senior Citizen Cane" (aka "Citizen Kane")," Grumpy Cul-de-Sacs" (aka "Mean Streets"), "2:48 PM Cowboy" (aka "Midnight Cowboy") ... well, you get the idea. Rachel eats them up like antidotal candy for chemotherapy. 

The friendship between these three misfits blooms into what Greg observes "isn't a sappy love story." And director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon never lets it happen. With a razor-sharp script by Jesse Andrews (based on his novel), the creativity of this fresh film soars. Really slick camerawork by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung further contributes to the immense appeal that this special movie exudes.

The casting is beyond brilliant. Mann's portrayal of a teen navigating and drifting in a sea of self-doubt is heartfelt without being melodramatic. Cyler's hip observational, wiser-than-his-years performance as Earl rocks. He's a scene stealer. Cooke's Rachel is pitch-perfect, never travelling down the "why me?" path of least resistance. And Molly Shannon as Rachel's Mom gives a surprising, multi-faceted portrayal of a parent trying to cope with the potential loss of her daughter.

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a film for everyone. Those experiencing teen angst, parents of children wanting the best for them, and perhaps, most of all, film geeks will appreciate this poignant little gem destined to become a classic.

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