Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by: Jesse Andrews
Produced by: Jeremy Dawson, Dan Fogelman, Steven M. Rales.
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Jon Bernthal, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton.
Currently Playing At: AMC Oakview Plaza 24
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL was a film I was really looking forward to. By the time the movie was finished I was disappointed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s without its redeeming qualities. The film is consistently funny, and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon does a pretty good job replicating the atmosphere of high school. Unfortunately the film seems to be trying too hard to ape the more successful teen films of recent memory, namely the works of John Green.
Greg (Thomas Mann) is in his senior year of high school, he’s trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible. His mother (Connie Britton, who is superb yet underutilized) makes him go spend the day with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who was just diagnosed with leukemia. They end up becoming friends; as such Greg and Earl (RJ Cyler) get pressured into making a movie for her. The film is about Greg’s path into adulthood, and about him coming out of his own bubble and blah blah blah blah blah.
The movie would a lot more interesting if it didn’t recycle several of these stale beats, it could even get away with using said clichés if it just didn’t so it in such an inane way. Will whether or not Greg goes to college be a major plot thread? Yup. Will his time with Rachel be centric around him and his needs? Yup. To be fair the latter is eventually addressed, but this demonstrates my point that ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL doesn’t spend as much time with the titular “dying girl” as it probably should. Rachel is merely a catalyst for Greg’s own character arc.
I don’t think this is a horrible movie, and it’s obvious that a lot of people like it, but there were three main attributes that bothered me. The first I already mentioned, which was how the film doesn’t spend enough time with Rachel. The second regards a scene that would technically be considered a spoiler so I will tread lightly. There is a scene near the end that the narration has been building up to, and it turned out that the narrator had been lying because….reasons? I hate, hate, hate it when movies do that when they haven’t established that as a possibility. The third is the narration itself, which is smug and overconfident. I see no reason why it couldn’t have been cut, more often than not it impedes the flow of the story.
There’s plenty to like about this movie. One being the absurdist humor, which is peppered throughout the film. One of my favorite gags was when Greg was in Rachel’s room and he looks at her poster of Hugh Jackman and the poster begins to talk to him (its actually Jackman doing the V/O too, he’s great). I liked the supporting actors, among which were Jon Bernthal is a history teacher, and Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad, alongside Connie Britton. They’re all barely in the movie but their acting is colorful and quirky. I liked the rapport between Greg and Earl, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler had a lot of chemistry.
While I did find the references to old films to be unique, I also thought it ran the risk of delving into over-indulgence. As though this was Remon’s in with the critics, to kiss up to them with references to the old movies they love. Not a bad thing, and not something I’ll dock points for, but just some food for thought.
The direction is generally creative, the production design had some grit to it and the visual effects during the stop motion sequences were fantastic. The stop motion scenes are some of the best parts of the film. I find myself hard pressed to say that ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL isn’t worth seeing, but it’s definitely a disappointment.