4.5 stars. Rated PG-13, for dramatic intensity, occasional coarse language and fleeting drug content
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.26.15
Little movies, absent shrieking publicity campaigns, have the potential to become unexpected treasures ... and this is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.
|After dryly dispensing another nugget of bewildering, utterly useless "advice," Greg's|
father (Nick Offerman, center) offers his newest culinary nightmare — pig's feet — to
Greg (Thomas Mann, right) and Earl (RJ Cyler)
Every generation gets its share of heartfelt dramas purporting to reflect the high school experience; some become classics, embraced by their target audiences due to a savvy blend of snarky wit and often uncomfortable intimacy. The modern cycle probably began with Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Breakfast Club, while more recent examples include Juno, Rocket Science and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s touching rendition of Jesse Andrews’ impressive writing debut — the Salinger-esque young adult novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl — belongs in their company. With the leaders of the pack.
Andrews has adapted his own book here, and it’s hard to know where to begin, with respect to the film’s many highlights. The casting is excellent, from the spot-on main characters to the off-center adults orbiting around them: the latter a droll touch, since teens always believe that adults inhabit an entirely different universe.
The dialogue is sharp and well delivered, the mordant, angst-ridden tone a painful reminder of high school disenfranchisement. This is also one of very few films to make excellent use of its main character’s off-camera commentary: reflections and asides — complete with narrative subtitles — that genuinely advance the storyline, as opposed to merely re-stating the obvious.
My favorite bit, though, has to be Andrews’ scathing, drop-dead-perfect description of high school’s clique-ish nature, as explained by the morose Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), a quiet, withdrawn kid who has made an art of navigating the social minefield by remaining as anonymous as possible. I couldn’t begin to do justice to Greg’s dissection of his school’s various factions, and paragraphs would be wasted in a failed attempt.
Besides which, that would spoil your delight upon hearing this discerning, mocking analysis from Greg’s own lips.