Tuesday, June 16, 2015

[Review] Me & Earl & the Dying Girl

It's been described as The Fault in Our Stars meets quirky Sundance-core dramedy. But that's too simplistic, and it's a disservice. Let me get even more straightforward: Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is just an excellent film.

Equipped with 500 Days of Summer-esque narration from Greg (Thomas Mann), a senior coasting through high school. Greg's mother (Connie Britton) informs him that one of his classmates Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has leukemia. Greg doesn't really know Rachel, but his mom forces him to hang out with her anyway. The sarcastic and sharp Rachel doesn't want Greg's pity, but he frankly tells her "My mom is making me." So, of course they end up becoming good friends. Great friends. But in defiance of expectations, they DO NOT fall in love. Greg's funny, foul-mouthed, nothing-is-sacred friend Earl (R.J. Cyler) eventually comes into the picture. Greg & Earl make (terrible) films together, 42 to be exact--all essentially parodies of classics in which they spoof the title like: "A Sockwork Orange", "Senior Citizen Cane", and "Gross Encounters of the Turd Kind". Along the way, they decide to make a film for Rachel, and well, it doesn't go as planned.

Even with its heavy premise, this film is absolutely hilarious. The script nostalgically taps into the absurd environment of high school where everyone attempts to find themselves, as well as the significant moments, relationships, and perils that come along with it. There's so many clever and funny one-liners, exchanges, and continuous jokes that provoke much laughter. The frequent narration works well because it allows us into Greg's over-thinking & self-aware mind, yet he still manages to spout off notoriously awkward or offensive things. "I'm innovatively dumb," he quips. And the great script clearly subverts conventions on a number of occasions.

But... there is a constant, underlying sadness here. Some scenes are completely devastating, especially toward the back half when Rachel begins chemotherapy and her deterioration becomes more and more apparent, and the deliveries of bad news rattle the group of friends. The chain of final sequences is incredibly poignant and moving. The film approaches its subject matter with such refreshing honesty, even inserting its own icebreaking moments. It doesn't try to sugarcoat anything either. However, the film stresses that you can't just automatically dehumanize someone or act like they're an elephant in the room when they're diagnosed with the terrible disease, and you don't *really* know what a person is going through on either side. The excellent performances from the main cast inject so much life and authenticity into the already superb story, and there's some amusing supporting turns from Nick Offerman and Jon Bernthal that end up being both goofy and melancholy.

Even though the film runs on humor and emotion, it's also really visually interesting. Aside from its dreary pastel color palette and stellar framing, some Wes Anderson-like idiosyncrasies spice up the screen, such as stop-motion intercuts and miniature artwork shots. And even though Greg & Earl's films are (terrible), they're actually pretty creative and they add some more spunky variety to the overall aesthetic. Personality is abundant, and the camera performs enough whip-pans to give you Vertigo (or 'Ver'd He Go?' as Greg & Earl would spoof). So, the film simultaneously functions as a general ode to cinema itself, and that's a very fun aspect for any fan or cinephile.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and Jesse Andrews' Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is one of the best films of 2015. Some of the humor might appeal more to younger audiences, but there's still enough here to call it essential for everyone. It manages to hit HARD without getting sappy. Best believe you will hear sniffles, tears, and tissues being whipped out. That is, if you aren't already doing it yourself.

Now I need to go hold a pillow.

* 9.5/10 *

1 comment:

  1. Love this review! Would love to have you review some of our indie films and attend a few events. Do you have an email?