Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Review
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, whose previous work includes Director of the FX Networks “American Horror Story” for four years, now takes his directing skills to the big screen in the independent drama – slight comedy film called “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl”. Yes that is the title (winner at the Sundance Film Festival) and it tells the story about 3 slightly off beat high school seniors in a small suburban homogenous community outside of Pittsburgh, PA.
The story picks up with one of the central characters named “Greg” played by actor Thomas Mann. Greg (who does voice over narration throughout the film) is a smart but underachieving student who is not unlike many young men his age - he’s on auto pilot breezing through life and yet is ambitious enough in that he wants to achieve something to contribute something meaning to life.
One day while sitting in his room working on his lap top computer his overly well intention mother comes into his room unannounced to inform him that a class mate named “Rachel” played by actress Olivia Cooke was just diagnosed with leukemia. Greg’s Mom insist in so many way that he go down the street to see her and essentially be her friend. Predictably Greg, looks upon his Mom request as both odd and awkward. He knows of Rachel from school as in they are acquaintances but far from being “hanging out” friends. Still, Greg’s Mother is certain that if he does this he will one day be glad he did and with some additional positive encouragement by his Mom eventually Greg reluctantly goes to Rachel’s home.
Initially awkward Greg and Rachel predictably goes from going through the motions to actually having real conversations with each other – they blossom into bosom buddies. And without it turning into some predictable standard messy teen romance they evolve into a strong bond with each other, especially when Greg shows her his extensive library of bad film remakes he and his “associate friend” Greg have made over the last few years such as “Sock Work Orange”, “My Dinner With Andre the Giant”, “Rosemary Baby Carrots” and “Senior Citizen Cane” to name a few.
PROS: If you saw West Anderson’s phenomenal film about young love “Moonlight Kingdom”, there are similarities in terms of the odd quirky humor mixed evenly throughout the film while in this films case having a much more serious subplot of dealing with a serious illness. There are scenes that are just weirdly funny and others poignantly moving – funny.
CONS: The quirky humor a few times seemed to be disconnected and misplaced to some scenes that clearly needed more seriousness and introspection or just edited out altogther.
CONCLUSION: First I would not reveal if Rachel lives or dies, the ending may surprise you. And while there are some reasons to find "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," a little too unusual, what it has working for it is a core that is sweet enough, smart enough, and honest enough to overcome these odd ticks for all of the right reasons. Those being it is a generously smart film dealing with something real in life and facing it head on. It is also about being young and learning to grow as meaningful friends that helps one grow in life itself by going through such an emotional journey together. A journey’s lesson that helps one care deeply about someone no matter how agonizing and upsetting that path maybe.
I thought the last 30 minutes of 1:40 minute film was as touching and moving as anything you will see all year. “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl” has real charm, real humor and while it has the word “dying” in its title the film itself is full of real life.
3 -1/2 Stars