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Laramie Movie Scope:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Girl and friend, who tries to escape unhurt

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 10, 2015 -- There is a good deal to admire about this film's insights into the complexities of human interactions and relationships, but also some annoyances, including an off-screen narrator who lies, and that's the least of his problems. It was written by Jesse Andrews, based on his novel of the same name.

The movie's main character, Greg (played by Thomas Mann, whose name makes me think of a certain Pulitzer Prize winning author) a self-loathing kid who is trying to slip by unnoticed in high school by being fake friends with everybody. He's a smart kid, but not smart enough to know his chosen method of sliding through life unhurt won't work.

Greg's mother (played by Molly Shannon of “Evan Almighty”) nags him into hanging out with Rachel (Olivia Cooke of “Ouija”) a girl who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Greg is very reluctant to go see Rachel, but the two hit it off and become fast friends, along with Greg's only other friend, Earl (R.J. Cyler of “Second Chances”). Greg and Earl have been friends since childhood. They have made a lot of movies together, loosely based on other movies they've seen.

These whimsical movies have funny titles, such as “The Last Crustacean of Christ,” “The Janitor of Oz,” “The Prunes of Wrath” and “Senior Citizen Kane.” The movies are so bad that they never let anyone else see them, but they are funny. Greg shows one of the movies to Rachel and it cheers her up. Soon, she begins to watch all of Greg and Earl's movies.

Greg's friendship with Rachel begins to change him. Cracks form in his protective shell. He makes a couple of careless comments and incurs the wrath of a couple of guys he had hoped to avoid. But most of all, he cares for Rachel, who is getting sicker. He can't take the pain of that loss, so he tries to avoid it.

There is a nice scene in the film between Greg and one of his teachers, Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal of “Fury”). The teacher tells Greg about the death of his own father and how he kept learning more about his father after he died, forming new memories. The fact that you can make new memories about people after they are gone is a useful thing that most teachers won't tell you.

I kept waiting for Greg to grow a pair, man up and do the right thing, but he is annoyingly resistant to that idea. He keeps avoiding Rachel, avoiding school, avoiding everything. I pretty much lost patience with this guy, but I won't give away the ending, although it is not hard to guess.

There are a lot of interesting characters in this film, and some great performances, especially by Mann, Olivia Cooke and R.J. Cyler. Nick Offerman is a hoot as Greg's oddball father and Connie Britton (“This Is Where I Leave You”) has a very nice scene or two as Greg's mother. Molly Shannon is funny as Rachel's tipsy mother. But R.J. Cyler seems to be the one actor who keeps this film grounded in some kind of reality. He serves as Greg's reality check, and Greg needs a lot of those.

This is an impressive effort by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. I expect to see his name a lot more in the future, and Cyler's too. This film has a lot going for it, but there are some things about it that bothered me too, so I have mixed feelings. However, the strong acting, directing and the inventive cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung (“Oldboy”) is just too good to knock. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)