My interest in the film piqued when this won at Sundance. I didn’t dislike the book this was based on, but it felt like I was reading a 12-year old masquerading as a 17-year old person’s story. Thankfully the author smoothly translated his novel onscreen, and the actors who portrayed the characters really brought life to those pages. Backtracking a bit, this is about Greg and his penchant for distancing himself from others, trying to cruise by high school unnoticed. This is also about Greg’s relationship with Earl, who he refers to as his co-worker, and his relationship with Rachel, a girl his mother forced him to hang out with because she has cancer. The movie mostly revolved around Greg’s progression and growth as he spent more time with Rachel. This mostly includes showing Rachel films he and Earl makes, hanging out with her and eventually becoming a friend.
I like the way this was written. The constant narration of the character allows progression of the story without missing a beat, and a look into Greg’s thoughts in order to understand and sympathize with his character. The story is told like it is – it’s very straightforward. It could have been more emotional, as there were scenes where it’s trying to reach peak emotions and it just kind of misses, but still hits the kind of atmosphere it was going for. Some scenes (with the way it was shot and how the conversation is going) become pivotal to their friendship even without trying. There were no life-changing lines, but there really are moments where Greg and Rachel’s friendship have gone deeper.
Let’s not forget the adults – Nick Offerman was predominantly present as a kooky father and was a great center for comic relief. Connie Britton and Molly Shannon also hammed their roles as quirky mothers. Then there’s the slightly profound teacher, played by Jon Bernthal, who was also good in the role.
The way the film was shot added to the charm of the whole production. The chapter titles worked to the film’s advantage. It kind of reminded me of Wes Anderson’s usage of a similar technique. Most coming-of-age films don’t really used movies as a medium, but this one stood out because of it. It played a big part on Greg, Earl, and Rachel’s friendship.
This was a pretty great film. It didn’t sugar coat things, and it focused on the friendship budding between the two main characters instead of making the audience to pine for them to be together that way.
Final Word: Great adaptation of a novel. The cast really helped spruced the novel up.
Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon