So I watched Me and Earl and The Dying Girl…
What’s in a name? How much does a movie’s title really matter? In the case of this movie it mattered a great deal because 90% of the reason why I went to watch this movie was simply because of the title (the other 10 was the trailer). I remember I was seasoning my popcorn with butter, sour cream and chives; and looking at the wall that had the posters of upcoming attractions. The minute I saw this movie’s title, I knew that I wanted to watch it. It really is testament to what good marketing can do for a movie.
Okay, basic plot: Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is an awkward high school teenager who has no real friends. He is acquainted with almost every social clique in his school but doesn’t believe in forming any real friendships. The closest thing he has to a friend is Earl (RJ Cyler) but Greg doesn’t consider Earl a friend, instead referring to him as his co-worker. The pair of them make movies (really horrible movies) that are spoofs of well-known movies. Thomas is perfectly content in his life of having no real friends but things all change when his mother forces him to hang out with Rachel – a classmate of his who has just learnt that she has stage 4 Leukaemia. Although reluctant at first, Thomas and Rachel develop an inseparable friendship that changes Thomas’ life.
I love the way this movie told its story. Greg is both a character in this film as well as its narrator and his narration feels like the director’s commentary on a dvd. He speaks to the audience and this film actually feels like one of the films that he and Earl make. The story is split up into little chapters and chronicles a six month journey of friendship between Greg and Rachel. The pacing in this movie is absolutely amazing and the story constantly feels like it’s in motion. Director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon does a great job with this film’s structure and its visual style. I really enjoyed the way he chose to frame and shoot scenes. There were moments when multiple characters were speaking that he would use a single camera and have it pan in the direction of whoever was speaking. This was a great effect because it made you feel like you were in the room and turning your head to face whoever’s talking.
The acting in this movie is A-class! Thomas Gunn does an amazing job as the awkward, often self-loathing Greg and Olivia Cooke will simply break your heart as the terminally-ill Rachel. The pair also had amazing chemistry which was fundamental because this entire movie is predicated on their friendship. In many ways this movie is a romcom because these two characters are falling in love with each other. Not in a ‘let’s run towards each other in the rain and kiss’ kinda way but in a ‘let’s be vulnerable, share our lives and develop a strong bond’ kinda way. Nick Offerman, Connie Britton and Molly Shannon all have supporting roles and little cameos in this movie and they’re all sensational, in particular, Offerman as Greg’s free-spirited dad. Earl’s name is in this movie’s title so you would think that he’d be a major part of this story but, strangely, he isn’t. I could never get a fix on his character and every time he’s on screen, he surprised me because I couldn’t nail his personality down. RJ Cyler does well but I never felt any consistency in the character.
This is an emotionally taxing movie. When I left the theatre, I felt like I had been punched in the gut – this movie took a toll on me and heavily impacted me. That being said, this movie isn’t depressing, in fact, it’s actually uplifting. This isn’t a story about cancer and how much it sucks; this is a story about friendship and how you can’t live your life without it. This movie is an affirmation about the importance of human connection and how important it is to not only be needed but also to be in need. It’s an extremely poignant piece. I also loved that this movie never asks for your sympathy or compassion. Both Greg and Rachel are dealing with major life issues but they’re both very strong characters. Yes, you will feel compassion for them but they never beg you for it. Jesse Andrews (who actually wrote the book this movie is based on) does a great job with this movie’s screenplay, keeping it just dark enough to hook you but just light enough so you don’t want to kill yourself.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is funny, full of soul and will pull on more than one heart-string. 2015 has been a year of great movies and this is one of them! Go watch it! 8/10