ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL: My review

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It’s quite rare to find a film that thoroughly charms you. Although it seems quite an old fashioned term, I love the feeling I get when I stumble across something that I find charming. For me the sensation is like being wrapped up in an oversized jumper on a freezing day, or having that first glorious sip of tea in the morning. It makes you comfortable, makes you feel at ease, and it just makes you feel good.

This afternoon, I watched the film “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl”, and it was, you guessed it, such a charming film. It centres around the three titular characters,Β Greg, who is the ‘me’ in this scenario. He is a high schooler, content to coast through the whole experience with offending as few people as possible, and making as few friends as possible. Earl is his ‘business partner’, which we find out is code for friend, Greg is just too afraid to call anyone a friend in case they don’t feel the same way. Finally, the dying girl. This is Rachel, a thoughtful, unique young woman diagnosed with leukaemia.

This film is about death, and that is made very clear from the outset, courtesy of Greg’s narration that continues throughout the film. This is one of the many things that charmed me about this film. It is self aware, yet it is not cliche. What I mean by this is that the director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, has a clear picture of what this film is going to be about, but does not fall into the tropes that can accompany films that deal with death. It is sincere without being sappy, it is irreverent without being flippant and it uplifting without necessarily having to impart some greater moral lesson.

The films that I found myself thinking of after I left the picture, were two films that I enjoyed greatly, and ones that I feel are similar in terms of tone. “They are 500 Days of Summer” and “50/50” Both of these films are about relationships, and one is certainly about death. If I’m being lateral, perhaps you could argue that “500 Days” is about death, as it is about the death of a relationship…but I don’t know how meta I want to get here.

With themes in mind, the film that we have is a touching portrayal of young adults struggling with issues that they should under normal circumstances never have to deal with. Where this films succeeds is creating a set of fully fleshed out characters that we can enjoy watching react to this situation in their own unique way. Greg retreats, Earl is sincere and Rachel doesn’t need your pity.

This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and I left the cinema with a smile on my face when the subject matter actually required tears. It may be strange, but if you want to feel uplifted, go and see this film. You may leave the theatre crying, but I guarantee you’ll also be wearing a smile.

4.5/5

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STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON: My review

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“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

The importance of the rap group N.W.A’s influence on the development of rap music is well known. Popularising the genre of gangsta rap, and forcing America’s eyes onto the condition of black Americans living in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Director F. Gary Gray does a solid job of setting the gritty scene of late 1980s Compton. The guns, drugs, poverty and police brutality are all introduced alongside each member of N.W.A. These themes occur throughout the film, showing that even though the group has managed to make out out of the ghetto, that escape does not necessarily translate into the freedom they imagined. This portrayal of the hardship faced by African Americans is particularly poignant when the recent events in the U.S. are considered. The tragedy that befalls Dr. Dre midway through the film is one that will be too familiar to dozens of families even today.

However, the film is not without its problems. This film is set during a period of huge social upheaval in America, the beating of Rodney King and the following L.A. Riots was a defining chapter in the story of race relations in America. However, this is a subject that the film largely chooses to gloss over, choosing the follow the members of the group in stead. It is understandable as this film is a biopic of the group, rather than social commentary, but it strikes me as such a wasted opportunity. Not only could we see who these men were, but to understand why they sang songs like “Fuck That Police”, and why songs like that meant so much, so so many millions of people.

Missed opportunities aside, the film stands out for positive reasons in many other ways. The casting is excellent, the actors chosen to portray the members of N.W.A are convincing in their execution, as well as looking and sounding exactly like their real-life counterparts. A special mention for O.Shea Jackson Jr. playing his father, Ice Cube, halfway through, you forget you are not in fact watching the real Ice Cube, such is the striking resemblance.

The concert sequences are a treat especially if you are a fan of the group, like I am. Hearing “Straight Outta Compton” through a theatre-quality sound system is a bone crunching experience, the song still hits you in the chest as hard as it did when released in 1988.

Overall, the film was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The director has managed to make the character’s story involving, without it being boring, and if anything, the musical sequences are more than enough to keep you entertained. Whilst I feel that the film could have been so much more in terms of developing the story outside of N.W.A, this shouldn’t detract from what was a good story.

3/5