It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. So many writers have started out with those exact words when writing a novel. As for Greg (Thomas Mann) he is writing about a young girl Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who is dying of leukemia but he assures us, the audience, that she does not die. Greg is a high school senior in Pittsburgh, his good friend Earl (RJ Cyler) who he has known since kindergarten, together they make spoofed films based on original films. The last film Greg made was so bad that it actually killed someone!
Greg is that guy in high school that treats the different group’s life a world of nations, the jocks, the druggies, the popular girls, the nerds and so on. He keeps himself off the major radar of each group which helps him to avoid any major trouble. Instead of eating in the cafeteria at school every day Greg would usually eat with Earl and their history teacher Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) in his office, this way he avoids any potential conflicts with other students. That is until his parents (Nick Offerman), (Connie Britton) nag him consistently to spend time with Rachel which ends up putting Greg on the radar with the other students at school like Madison (Katherine C. Hughes) and Ill Phil (Masam Holden) once they learn of Rachel’s illness. Rachel’s mother Denise (Molly Shannon) is a bit strange but deeply loves her daughter and appreciates her new friend Greg who over the days of doom has gradually become more attached over time to Rachel.
As time goes by Rachel has stopped her treatment, Greg has been working on a movie for her for the last four months and Earl has grown attached to Rachel as well admiring her patience. In the end all three students, friends, have become blessed in different ways for knowing each other and admiring the similarities and differences they all hold inside their being. The theme is medieval times for prom day, it happens to be dooms day 209 and Rachel is back in the hospital; Greg is not accepted at Pitt yet decides to go to the prom in a tux with a flower in hand along with one finished project for one dying girl. The squirrels are playing in the trees as a tear falls from Greg’s eye for the dying girl that gave him his favorite fuzzy pillow along with a college book and more. There are hidden secrets in all of us you just have to take the time to get to know someone to find out what they are!
The film is obviously a small budget production but is extremely well directed and written about high school days and the students that spend senior year together. Although it nicely touches on the many circles within the walls of a high school the story really spends most of its time on Greg, Earl and Rachel, pretty much in that order. One thing I would have liked to see in order to become more invested in Rachel was her struggles and that of her mother’s acceptance. I mean the writers touch on these subjects but not enough in my opinion to get totally invested in Rachel’s fight for life. Instead they turn the focus more on Greg and how he personally deals with the plight of life and death. I guess I would have liked to see more interaction between Greg and Rachel if not as a love interest then more involved as just friends. Yet for a film of this caliber with a nice score and cast of characters it may do ok at the box office. “The Fault in our Stars” did well in theaters and the story lines are very similar although this film plays out a bit more for the younger generation. It may all depend on their marketing plan although with just a low budget they should definitely at least double their profits.
Mann is the true awkward guy that is trying to find his own way in life but definitely shines in this role. Cyler is the perfect best friend and associate to Mann adding a sense of balance to their lives and a bit of levity and strength as well. Cooke is true perfection in her role projecting in words and emotions the fight for life against cancer. I have to admit every time I saw Shannon on screen I could not help but think “Super Star” if you know what I mean. As for the rest of the cast they all contributed well to the story line and brought life into the days of what it is truly like in high school. Written and appreciated for this story line with 2.5 paws out of 4 by Jon Patch,