Review – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Poster

Coming out of Sundance as the winner of the Grand Jury Prize as well as the Audience Award, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has has almost nothing but positive buzz leading up to it’s limited theatrical release.  What’s it about?  The title succinctly says it all.

Based on the 2012 novel of the same name, Me and Earl is about Greg (Thomas Mann), an intensely awkward teen whose life goal is to fly under the radar as much as possible, his “coworker” Earl (Ronald Cyler II), who’s an unlikely friend with a quick lip, and Rachel (Olivia Cooke).  Rachel is dying.

When Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg’s parents (Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) insist he becomes the friend she probably needs, despite the fact that he’s hardly interacted with her at school, ever.  A product of his flying under the radar approach to survival.  Forced to make an effort, Greg is slowly drawn into the life of a dying girl.

Molly Shannon and Jon Bernthal also appear as Rachel’s highly eccentric mother and an unorthodox high school teacher.

If you’re going to make a comedy, or dramedy, about cancer, you’d better be sure it’s a good one.  Just like 50/50, it is.

Too often, indie films feel like indie films, in that they either embrace realism so much that the film becomes dull, or the emphasize the quirkiness of life so much, it feels unrealistic.  Both extremes can work in certain cases, but there are tall stacks of independent films that appeal to only a select few with very specific tastes.  Utterly genuine, with all the strange quirks of life that come with being a young person, Me and Earl strikes an effortless, emotional chord.

Hilarious at times, heart wrenching at others, and sometimes just a little too strange, it’s a slice of life that doesn’t meander into tedium.  It’s a story that expresses its need to be told in a way that we want to hear it.  It has certain marks of the “indie style” like a voice-over narration.  Unlike certain other films I’ve seen where such a tactic feels like a storytelling crutch and gimmick, here it feels absolutely necessary and natural.  As Greg lets us into his head on occasion, it enhances the story rather than distracts us from it.

If there is a distraction to the story, it’s Molly Shannon’s role as Rachel’s mother.  She obviously has some various issues with her emotional state and substance abuse.  Vastly inappropriate at times, she’s entertaining to watch, but a little befuddling.  It seems like perhaps there was more to her character that was originally in the story that was cut from the final film.  It’s not a major issue, but it’s noticeable enough that it stood out to me as being a little off and unexplained.  Though, really, how many things in real life can we say that about?

In addition to being an incredibly emotional story about growing up, dealing with sickness, loss, and life, it’s also an homage to film making.  Greg and Earl are directors, you see, cranking out the most horribly good interpretations of their favorite flicks and embodying the dreams of anyone who has ever thought about making a movie as a kid.

Culminating in a series of incredibly emotional and beautiful moments, Me and Earl is painted expertly with the brush of life sparkling with imagination and emotion.  Currently in very limited release, it seems destined to be vastly overshadowed by big blockbusters, but it’s a true gem that should be sought out if possible.

My rating: Five out of five hats

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Mrs. Hamster says:

“I can’t say what I want to say about this movie because it’s a spoiler. :-P”

Trailer:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl takes on 15 theaters June 12

One thought on “Review – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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