|Earl dubiously enjoy's Greg's Dad's cuisine du jour - pig's feet.|
This movie, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews, is about several things - filmmaking, life and death, the excruciating transition from childhood to adulthood, and the realization that we all must come to: even adults don't have all the answers. It is also about uncovering uncomfortable truths rarely spoken about but are there - the fact that young people do get diagnosed with devastating diseases, that yes, teenage boys and girls do masturbate, and yes, sometimes the occasional pot cookie does get eaten prior to college. But rather than jar us with these truths by exposing them in harsh light, they are drawn out in the cozy confines of everyday life, amongst talks about health class and where to sit at lunch, while clutching pillows in quaint yellow childhood bedrooms.
|One of Greg and Earl's films within the film. Cracked me up.|
Greg is pulled abruptly out of his self-absorption malaise when he finds out from his mother that his classmate Rachel, played by the lovely Olivia Cooke, has been diagnosed with leukemia. I adore it when films can bring realistic reactions to the big screen, and Greg's is your typical teenage mantra - well, that really sucks, but what am I supposed to do about it? In typical mom fashion, she encourages Greg to go over to her house anyway for support, which Greg is not jazzed about doing, but eventually does.
Much of the film is slow and poignant, buoyed along by the creative original music by Brian Eno that incorporates the mournful drones of the harmonium spiced up with sparkles of techno beats.The cinematography incorporates everything from long, unbroken shots to stop-motion animation (including a hilarious recurring montage of a moose accidentally stepping on a small chipmunk over and over, a mental metaphor for Greg's crush inadvertently stepping on his heart with her casual interest in him). The camerawork is a joy to behold, with many of the shots done in one long take, casually panning back and forth between the characters. There are off-center shots with the character in corners, at the end of hallways, allowing us to get a sense of their broader environment. One particularly epic scene is after Rachel has started chemo treatment, and she and Greg get into their first major argument. It is all done in ONE shot. This allows the emotion of the moment to build in our hearts and minds and is a testament to the acting chops of both Mann and Cooke. That scene is worth the price of admission alone.
|Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann, & RJ Cyler as the featured trio.|
Unlike many films that walk the tightrope between tragedy and comedy, there's no pretension. It's a simple story with a complex message, and a heartfelt look into today's contemporary teen, and all that goes into the journey from being a boy to becoming a man.