Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Cast: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Connie Britton
Release Date: June 12th, 2015
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a movie that could’ve easily fallen into a cinematic trap. The main characters could’ve become one-dimensional and the hardships they face could’ve easily become schmaltzy enterprises that demand tears from the audience. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon fortunately avoids those trappings— finding comedy and beauty in a film the avoidance of friendship and the unpredictability of death.
Greg, ampoule the lead character in the film, shop knows one of the keys to successes in high school (and in the real world) is knowing who your allies and your enemies are. Greg has found a way to avoid the trappings of high school by building vague relationships with a large number of his schoolmates so that no one really relies on him but no one dislikes him either.
In Greg’s world, story each clique is its own nation and his goal is to earn “citizenship in every country.”
Greg, played in the movie by the underrated Thomas Mann, only has a few close relationships— the greatest of which is his relationship with Earl (newcomer RJ Cyler), a confidant he doesn’t even refer to as a friend. Earl, is a co-worker, Greg tells his classmates and his family members.
Greg could’ve easily come across as anti-social and tough to like. Instead, Mann (Project X) fills him with a heartfelt vulnerability. Greg isn’t who he is because he wanted to be that way. He just found it to be easier. When his mother (Connie Britton) tells him that his schoolmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has cancer, Greg visits her because his mother asks him to. It’s easier that way and when he arrives at Rachel’s door, he’s honest about the real reason he’s there.
It’s the honesty of the characters and the situation that make this Sundance favorite stand out. Nothing really seems forced here, including the laughter and the tears. Both are plentiful.
The cast includes a variety of great comedic actors like Nick Offerman (Greg’s Dad) and Molly Shannon (Rachel’s Mom). who each have some quirky moments of dialogue. But these characters stand on the periphery of the main story. They are the well-known actors who help the audience focus in on the main trio of actors who guide us through a heartbreaking journey. It’s the main trio that really make this story stand out.
When the film gets more serious (which it inevitably does) the film retains its heart, never lessening its grip on the characters who thankfully avoid a cheesy love story here. The story knows it can stand on its own without one and ably does.
When Rachel is facing her cancer treatments, the director (who previously directed episodes of Glee and American Horror Story) aims his camera at her with Mann blurry in the background. It may be his story but when she’s suffering, it’s hard for him to maintain his role as a sarcastic outsider who doesn’t want to care. Despite the fact that he’s starting to care, Greg continues to count the days of his friendship with “the dying girl” as if the friendship he has to care about, not something he chooses to.
In addition to being a movie about young people that really captures some universal truths about growing up, this film stands as a great appreciation of classic cinema. Greg and Earl are co-workers in the sense that they make short films together that are built around the concepts of some great classic movies. The director and Jesse Andrews (the novelist and screenwriter on whose story this film was based) appreciate great films and the unique qualities that make such films stand out.
That appreciation and love of cinema shows in nearly every moment of this well-orchestrated and beautiful film.
Review by: John Hanlon