Combustible Celluloid
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With: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine C. Hughes, Matt Bennett, Masam Holden, Bobb'e J. Thompson
Written by: Jesse Andrews, based on his novel
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements
Running Time: 105
Date: 07/03/2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sick Flicks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a novel by Jesse Andrews (who also wrote the screenplay), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a massive hit at Sundance, although by the time it hit theaters, the hype seemed to have worn off. The actual movie falls somewhere in-between: it's not a masterpiece, but it's funny and pretty entertaining. It is something of a disease-of-the-week movie, but like the better examples of that genre, it doesn't actually focus on the disease. High school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) is a self-described outcast whose only activities are avoiding other people at school, and making funny little parody films with his "co-worker" Earl (RJ Cyler). (Titles include A Sockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Butt, though they are particularly fond of Werner Herzog.) When his mother (Connie Britton) hears that a classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has cancer, she pushes Greg into paying her a visit. The visits become a regular thing, and soon, Greg allows her to see his films. That leads to the proposition that Greg and Earl make a film just for Rachel, but they have no idea what to make and time is running out. First-time director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon keeps the mood alive and quirky, allowing genuine sadness to seep in at the corners; Mann's narration helps nail down the mood. Jon Bernthal plays a helpful teacher who lets Greg and Earl eat lunch in his office and watch classic films, Molly Shannon is Rachel's mom, swilling a lot of white wine, and Nick Offerman is typically hilarious as Greg's father, who likes to eat strange foods.

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