Thursday, June 11, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Movie Review


Trades away sentimentality for quirky humour but doesn't go far enough.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, as the title suggests, is a quirky indie comedy; trying to subvert traditional mainstream sentimentality with referential humour. When it's trying to be funny, it is mostly funny. But it doesn't veer away from its mainstream source – girl dying from leukemia – as much as it thinks it does, and there isn't as much substance to make it more impactful or meaningful, or sentimental. 2015

Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Screenplay by: Jesse Andrews
Based on the novel by Jesse Andrews

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke

The “me” is Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school student who spends all his spare time making really bad movies with fellow outsider Earl and hangs out with a cool teacher. A kid who I guess is supposed to be pretty smart but has really low self-esteem and doesn't like doing anything that his parents tell him to do and thinks that he's alone in this world. He also doesn't call Earl his friend, but his co-worker. The “I'm too cool for anything attitude” is not very attractive. It's also a worn-out character type and makes the movie a direct cross between The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and The Spectacular Now (2013), but Mann doesn't have the screen presence of Miles Teller or even Logan Lerman (It's a tough life getting compared to two of the better actors of their generation).

RJ Cyler as "Earl," Nick Offerman as "Greg's Dad," and Thomas Mann as "Greg"
in ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. Photo coutesy of Fox Searchlight
Pictures. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
Early on, the film does an especially good job with fast-paced witty dialogue. Non-stop movie references – the more obscure, the funnier it is to a select group of people. There are quite a few hilarious scenes – including Greg comparing fake sympathy to Gandhi leading India to independence, and to his discovery of accidentally being on drugs.

You also have to mix in a little The Fault In Our Stars (2014) since the movie is about Greg becoming friends with a classmate who was diagnosed with leukemia. This is where the movie tries to be unique and avoids sentimentality – Greg refers to her as “the dying girl” and when he first goes to her house he admits it's only because his mother is making him. It's even funny during some of these pragmatic scenes.

Olivia Cooke as "Rachel" and Thomas Mann as "Greg" in ME AND EARL
AND THE DYING GIRL. Photo by Anne Marie Fox. © 2015
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
Eventually though the film trades in the comedy for sentimentality which is a problem because the dramatic scenes are not particularly good and when they kept insisting that it was not a sentimental film, no emotional attachment was formed. I didn't care what happened to Greg, I really didn't care what happened to Earl, and even though I liked Rachel when she was on the screen, I didn't care if she died or not.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is funny when it's being a comedy, but when it's being a sentimental drama, it's just boring. It should also be noted that Greg does nothing apart from hanging out with Rachel. His description of literally doing nothing is funny, but a main character who literally does nothing, is not particularly interesting to watch.

Similar Titles:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) - Uplifting teenage drama with humour, heart and soul.

The Spectacular Now (2013) - Floats around life with two good performances.