"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is the sleeper hit of the summer of 2015.
Regardless of its box office tally, the movie is the critical hit . It's an astounding piece of cinema: bold concept, audacious style and compelling content.
"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the United States Dramatic Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
It also won awards at the Nantucket and Seattle film festivals. The film was acquired for $12 million, the largest amount in Sundance history.
The title pretty much says it all. However, we won't play spoiler and reveal the film's plot twist. Even so, this is one film you'll want to see again, and take friends to see. I know, I do.
"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" has the appeal and cheeky approach (especially the use of voiceovers as explainers) of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) and the impact of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (2007), not so much in story, style or acting as in its celebration of life's inanities, as well as its seriousness, and the need and desire to carry-on and not give up.
This is an auspicious, confident and fully-realized theatrical motion picture directorial feature-film debut for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (director, TV's "Glee," "American Horror Story"). The film is based on the 2012 novel by Jesse Andrews, who wrote the film's screenplay (his first).
Pittsburgh high school senior Greg (Thomas Mann, "Project X," 2012; "Beautiful Creatures," 2013) has been asked by his mom (Connie Britton) to make friends with Rachel (Olivia Cooke, "The Quiet Ones," 2014, TV's "Bates Motel"), a classmate who has cancer. Greg would rather spend his time making parodies of well-known films with his classmate Earl (RJ Cyler in his theatrical debut).
Though Greg is reluctant, over time, he and Rachel bond in unexpected and delightful ways.
Chief among the film's attractions is seeing Greg's and Rachel's friendship unfold. Greg's friendship with Earl is also one of the film's unexpected charms.
The supporting performers are also wonderfully offbeat to behold, including Nick Offerman (TV's "Parks and Recreation," "Children's Hospital") as Greg's dad; Molly Shannon (TV's "Saturday Night Live") as Rachel's mom; Jon Bernthal ("Fury," 2014) as school administrator Mr. McCarthy; Katherine C. Hughes as Madison, the popular senior girl; and a voiceover by Hugh Jackman.
The film parodies ("2:48 Cowboy") in the film are side-splittingly funny and will greatly amuse film buffs. There are several Wes Anderson-style ("The Grand Budapest Hotel," 2014) surrealist cinematic touches.
Another aspect of note are the locations in and around Pittsburgh, which are used to good advantage. Director of photography is Chung-hoon Chung ("Stoker," 2013). Production design is by Gerald Sullivan ("The Dark Knight Rises," 2012). Art direction is by Sarah M. Pott ("Smashed," 2012).
The music is by Nico Muhly ("The Hours," 2002) "The Reader," 2008) and alternative music composer-producer Brian Eno.
Look for several Independent Spirit nominations and possible Oscar actor (Mann) and actress (Cooke) nominations.
Don't let the title be off-putting (which it is). "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" will be embraced by those who see it. This is the must-see independent film of summer 2015. Don't miss it on the big screen.
"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Run time: 1 hr., 45 min.; Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" Pittsburgh locations included Schenley High School.
Box Office, July 10: It took "Minions" to defeat the dinosaurs with a near-record $115.2 million opening at No. 1, ending the four-week No. 1 run of "Jurassic World," slipping to No. 2, with $18.1 million, $590.6 million, after five weeks.
3. "Inside Out," $17.1 million, $283.6 million, four weeks; 4. "Terminator Genisys," $13.7 million, $68.7 million, two weeks; 5. "The Gallows," $10 million, opening; 6. "Magic Mike XXL," $9.6 million, $48.3 million, two weeks; 7. "Ted 2," $5.6 million, $71.6 million, three weeks; 8. "Self/less," $5.3 million, opening; 9. "Baahubali: The Beginning," $3.5 million; 10. "Max," $3.4 million, $33.7 million, three weeks;
Unreel, July 17:
"Ant-Man," PG-13: The little guy gets the big-screen treatment. Paul Rudd puts on the shrink-wrap suit. Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly co-star in the science fiction action film.
"Trainwreck," R: Judd Apatow directs Amy Schumer in a semi-biographical comedy about a commitment-phobic career woman who meets Mr. Right. Bill Hader, Brie Larson and Colin Quinn co-star.
"Irrational Man," R: Woody Allen directs Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone and Parker Posey in a drama about a philosophy professor.
"Mr. Holmes," PG: Bill Condon directs Ian McKellen, who portrays Sherlock Holmes reflecting on his life. Laura Linney co-stars in the drama.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press website, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times News website, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6-6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, wdiy.org, where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline. com. Follow Paul Willistein on Twitter @ PaulWillistein and friend Paul Willistein on Facebook.
Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes