MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke.
If there was ever a generation more celebrated in fiction than the Millennial youth, I have yet to meet them. This phenomenon is fueled by the wide popularity of YA books (written specifically for this age group) in which the main character (usually the narrator) is incredibly self-focused, self-deprecating, ironic and intelligent. John Green is the current standard bearer, filling his books (and their film adaptations) with clever dialogue and hipness. The Fault in Their Stars and its story about kids in a cancer support group managed to crossover and gain readers of all ages.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews is another “teenagers with cancer” book (published the same year as The Fault in Their Stars), but it takes a different course than Green’s book, and this is a different kind of film.
The Fault in Our Stars begins with a community of teens; Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (why are these titles so long?) begins with one solitary kid and his best friend. Greg (Mann) is a loner who really has few people he can relate to in high school, but he has convinced himself that he has the gift of being “invisible” and, freed from every clique in school, is actually in community with everyone. Greg and his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) are film nerds with a deep knowledge of cinema. Their time together is spent filming mock parodies of famous films (“Senior Citizen Cane”, “Grumpy Cul-de-sacs”, “Rosemary Baby Carrots”). Since we never get to view any of these student films, let’s just say that the boys obviously enjoy puns and other wordplay.
Greg’s mother (Connie Britton) decides that Greg needs to get out of his shell and care for another human being, so she suggests that he visit Rachel (Cooke), a girl in his high school who has been diagnosed with leukemia. After some awkward moments, a tentative friendship begins, since Rachel is alone in a different way and she also shares an artistic sensibility and a flair for creative gestures.
This film is having a hard time finding an audience. There are no big stars, there is no love story, and all of the movie jokes will go over the heads of people who aren’t obsessive about films (trust me on this one) – and the jokes really aren’t that good.
But the movie is sweet and quiet and anchored with three great performances by the three young leads. The adult characters are well acted, too, but these are the kinds of parents and teachers that exist only to make the kids seem smarter.
This movie straddles the line between PG13 (which is carries) and R, but I doubt that today’s youth will be surprised or shocked by the dialogue.
The film celebrates any person who has ever felt invisible and misunderstood, reminding them that they are no alone and that there is no time better than today to embrace the beauty inside of you and then make opportunity for celebration. God is far too creative to be limited to the tried-and-true. As the love of Christ compels us to move out of our comfort zones and familiar labels, we, too, may be delighted and amazed at what we will discover.
Three halos: A quiet and quirky film about creativity and mortality.
Three pitchforks: No sex scenes or even a romantic subplot, but quite a bit of teenage talk about sex, including jokes about masturbation; casual swearing throughout the film, including the F bomb; accidental marijuana ingestion by teens; implied alcoholism.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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