Review: ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ Does Away With Formula and Gives Us Something Great







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Posted September 22, 2015 by

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Greg is a high school senior that fills his days making parodies of classic films with his co-worker, Earl. When his classmate Rachel gets diagnosed with Leukemia, Greg’s mother forces him to hang out with her; so that she has someone to talk to and so that Greg stops being so anti-social. What starts off as an awkward meeting turns into a meaningful friendship, as the two kids let down their guard and allow themselves to forget (momentarily) that her disease is life-threatening.


This is director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s second feature film (his first being the remake of the horror movie ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown‘) and while it’s drastically different in tone from his first, Rejon once again brings this fresh perspective that turns the film’s genre on its head. While on the surface this film appears to be something we’ve seen before (i.e. A Walk To Remember, The Fault In Our Stars), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl immediately crushes all of those preconceived ideas by flat-out telling you, “This is not those films. This does not follow a formula”. Once that message is made clear, you have no idea what to expect and it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. A lot of Rejon’s choices in this film reminded me of the way Michel Gondry shot Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine: live action mixed with practical effects and claymation. You would think those things wouldn’t fit in this kind of narrative, but it brings a level of charm to the film that would otherwise be lacking.

Andrews delivers a script that doesn’t forget about its characters and, instead, makes them the focal point. While films that deal with similar subject matter seem to focus on the impending doom, Andrews wants you to focus on the bigger picture: the things these characters gain through the process. Even in the face of something serious, you can still find a reason to laugh and enjoy yourself. The narration he comes up with for this story is my favorite part: it continuously reminds you that what you’re watching will not go how you want; it’s not that type of story. Thank God for that.

The casting in this film is a perfect blend of fresh faces and beloved veterans. While you’ll be more excited at first to see Nick Offerman, Jon Bernthal, and Molly Shannon, you’ll end up staying to watch Thomas Mann (Greg), RJ Cyler (Earl), and Olivia Cooke (Rachel). These young actors completely carry the film and don’t miss a single beat. While you start off waiting to see more of Nick Offerman as the Sociology Professor dad, you’ll leave the movie wishing you could have seen more of RJ Cyler’s Earl.

Multiple narratives in the film allow for none of them to grow stale while also taking you on an emotional roller coaster. One moment you’re laughing because Greg and Earl are showing Rachel their parody of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ titled ‘A Sockwork Orange’, and the next you’re watching a tense conversation between Rachel and Greg as the camera doesn’t break away from the action, there’s no music to tell you how you should feel, you’re just in this uncomfortable moment. That’s what I loved about the film though: it always kept me guessing.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a breath of fresh air. It’s also proof that you can take a story that’s been done a hundred times and do something new with it. You don’t always have to follow the rules; sometimes it’s better to make your own. This may be my favorite movie of the year.





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