Thursday, June 04, 2015

“Me And Earl And The Dying Girl”– Movie Review



This week, The New York Times Film Club had a screening of the new comedy-drama, “Me And Earl And The Dying Girl”, a comedy-drama which won multiple prizes at The Sundance Film Festival.


When a high school senior befriends a classmate with leukemia, he tries to make a film for her -- but when it takes longer than expected, will he be able to finish it and show her the movie before it’s too late?


As he begins his Senior year of high school, Greg (Thomas Mann) just wants to have a good time and cruise through with his buddy Earl (Ronald Cyler II) by his side. Having known each other since early childhood, they were raised watching all of the classic films, which has resulted in them wanting to make their own movies -- except the ones they make are parodies of the motion pictures they’ve viewed over the years. Examples include, “Senior Citizen Kane” and “Brew Velvet”. Other than that, however, they’re not terribly motivated to do very much else with their life. Although college may not be in the cards for Earl, Greg’s parents (Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) are pushing their son to apply to a local university near their home in Pittsburgh.

Around this time, Greg’s mom informs him that Rachel (Olivia Cooke), one of his fellow students, was recently diagnosed with leukemia; she strongly urges him to strike up a friendship with the girl and pay her a visit. Understandably, Greg is quite reluctant to do so because the two barely knew of each other’s existence in the years they’ve been attending the same high school and he feels suddenly becoming friends with her at this point would seem suspicious and reek of pity. Nevertheless, she nags her son into submission; after failed attempts at trying to schedule a get-together via the phone, Greg decides to just drop by Rachel’s house, where he is greeted by Denise (Molly Shannon), Rachel’s mother, who’s drowning her sorrows in many glasses of wine. Despite Rachel making it clear that she’s not interested in Greg’s sudden interest in her, he persists and eventually she finally acquiesces, allowing him a visit.

Overcoming a rough start, the two somehow manage to carve out some semblance of a friendship; in spite of Greg’s efforts to keep secret from Rachel the films he made with Earl, Earl spills the beans, causing her to become curious. As a result, an embarrassed Greg is forced to show her their movies and it turns out she loves them! When a mutual friend learns about this, she suggests to Greg that he and Earl work on an original piece just for Rachel in the hope that it would cheer her up during her illness. Reluctantly, Greg begins work on this with Earl’s help; unfortunately, his school work is left to suffer from this because he dedicates all of his time to filmmaking instead of doing homework. This results in the college Greg applied to rejecting his application; nevertheless, at the urging of others, he presses on with continuation of the video. But by this time, Rachel has quit chemotherapy and entered the hospital. Will Greg be able to show Rachel his tribute to her before time runs out?


The screenplay for “Me And Earl And The Dying Girl” was written by Jesse Andrews, who adapted it from his own novel. If the self-conscious cuteness from the movie also existed in the book, then translating that mood into the film may not have been the best choice; after a while, the smug attitude has a magical way of getting on your nerves the same way that it did in another teenage movie, “Juno”. Are the filmmakers out to remake that motion picture with a boy in the lead or was this a stab at their version of a John Hughes work? There was only one person who was ever good at producing a John Hughes story and sadly, he’s gone on to his great reward a few years back.

One noteworthy item about “Me And Earl” is the direction by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. There are a few very interesting animation sequences in the film that were cleverly shot; in addition, the way in which the “movies” made by Greg and Earl are presented were also extremely well done. As far as the performances are concerned, Offerman and Cyler are the two stand-outs here. Offerman, as Greg’s spaced-out dad, is a perfect fit and we understand why, with him as a father, Greg turned out to be the mess that he is; Cyler is so understated as Earl, he serves as the much-needed counterpoint to the too-hip-for-the-room portrayals of Greg and Rachel.

As the character of Greg is written, he’s largely unsympathetic and unlikeable. Although it’s supposed to be his story since he’s clearly the protagonist here (the tale unfolds from his viewpoint through narration), there’s little that’s admirable about him until near the very end of the movie when he seeks some form of redemption by visiting Rachel in the hospital. Other than that, he mostly wanders around being an obnoxious, self-centered adolescent who deserves every bit of misery life sees fit to pile upon him. Throughout “Me And Earl”, we are rooting more for Rachel than for any other character -- and with her as the protagonist, we might have had a better film.


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) on IMDb

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