Greg, an awkward high school student, is entering his senior year. He is a misfit who carefully navigates his way through each of his school’s student groups without standing out. He and his best friend Earl spend most of their time making parody films together (list of parody films and obvious spoilers). One day, he learns from his mother that his childhood friend, Rachel, is diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. His mother forces him to try to spend time with her to make her feel better. The two have an awkward start to their new friendship with neither seemingly wanting each other’s company but it eventually grows and develops as she begins to fall for his quirky personality. The film primarily serves as his story of how he spends his time with Rachel and thus it is told from his perspective and he narrates it.
This film is a coming-of-age story as he deals with his last year of high school and decides what he wants to do about his future while living with his overbearing parents and hanging out and making films with his best friend. The film covers a lot of subject matter, it’s a high school comedy, it’s a drama, and it’s an experimental film all in one and it does them all very well. It explores high school social structure in a smart and original way that everyone would expect that reminded me of when I went to high school (jocks, nerds, geeks, goths, etc). The film does a great job of not sensationalizing terminal illness as it is just the secondary or even tertiary plot line and the film’s treatment of her friendship with Greg is both darkly funny and realistically bleak. The bulk of it focuses on Greg’s relationships either with Rachel, Earl, his parents or with Earl and his history teacher, Mr. McCarthy. The writing and execution is elite quality. Each character seem are grounded and depicted realistically. Parent and child relationships and peer relationships all are captured in humorous and touching ways. The dramatic elements of the film don’t come across as cliche or cheesy thanks to the acting and the writing that I’ve previously mentioned. I applaud the imagination involved in the parody films which Greg and Earl make as they are cheesy, funny, and full of charm with the purposefully bad acting and some nice stop-motion animation. This comes from the fact that they make them by themselves with the smallest of budgets. I would definitely not mind if they could be released in any form, maybe online. The actor who plays Greg, Thomas Mann, definitely carries this film with his performance and I was pleasantly surprised seeing that I have not heard of him before (quick IMDB search). The three main actors had excellent chemistry together on top of the original script kept me laughing and entertained for most of the film. For those who may be unsure, this not one of those pretentious YA book-based movies. It is a smartly written, well acted film and is one of the best films of the year.
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