Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a smash hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This year’s Whiplash, if you will. The film was an anomaly in that it not only garnered the Grand Jury Prize, but also the coveted Audience award, thus making it a rare critics and audience members darling. Since then it has won the hearts of discerning audiences at film festivals in Seattle and Nashville, easily picking up distinguished awards at both. A John Hughes-like film for the modern age, the tender and poignant teen drama will undoubtedly capture hearts wherever it plays.
Self-oppressed with harrowing insecurity and repressed self-doubt, Greg (Thomas Mann) is a teenager cognizant of the world before him. He wades through the murky waters of high school by making daily small talk with members of the various pedestrian cliques, always careful to avoid any attachments beneath the surface. That is until his mother (Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story) forces him to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke in a tour de force performance), the titular dying girl, a classmate who has been diagnosed with leukemia. With nothing but his attempts at self-deprecating humor, Greg fails to win over the sharp witted young lady until he shows her the films he’s made with his “co-worker” Earl (up and comer RJ Cyler). Easily the highlight of this film, their comical and lampoonish takes on cinematic classics such as Harold and Maude and Midnight Cowboy (retitled as ‘2:48pm Cowboy’) are a delight for cinephiles. Sparking an at-times awkward friendship, Rachel helps Greg, the ever so unreliable narrator, slowly gain insight into family, genuine intimacy, and his deep seated issues with himself.
Written by Jesse Andrews, based on his own novel by the same name, the film is sure to remind discerning viewers of the recent The Fault in our Stars (a film also, coincidentally, written by the author of its source novel). The ‘dying girl’ befriending a quirky yet charming young man narrative is nothing new to cinematic audiences, and yet the material feels fresh in the capable hands of Andrews and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. One can forgive Gomez-Rejon for the scattering of Wes Anderson-like shots in the film when it is this charming and relatable. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl are a trio and a film you won’t soon forget.