COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 45min
STARRING: Thomas Mann, R.J. Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Too cool for school: from left, Cooke, Mann and Cyler
There’s obviously nothing funny about leukaemia. Dealing with it up close, though, especially when you’re square-peg Greg Gaines (Mann) is something else. “Terminally awkward” and involvement averse Pittsburgh high-school senior Greg has been nagged into spending time with Rachel Kushner (Cooke), who has just been diagnosed with the disease, by his interfering mother (Connie Britton). Greg is one of those too smart and articulate by half indie-movie guys seemingly bred by substance-starved creatives in Hollywood back rooms. But don’t hold that against him, because at heart he’s a sweetly insecure flake who makes kooky satires of classic movies (A Sockwork Orange, 2.48 PM Cowboy…) with his deadpan “co-worker” and only friend, Earl Jackson (Cyler).
Rachel, who is as grounded as Greg is off-centre, takes to Earl right away. (Don’t we all?) But it’s her spiky, unprecedented and affirming friendship with Greg that is a true learning curve—in a totally non-hearts and flowery way. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s treatment of Jesse Andrews’s screenplay (which Andrews adapted from his 2012 debut young-adult novel) is a whole bunch of quirky, inventive, caring, witty, intelligent and moving things. Schmaltzy was never on the list.