Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
written by: Jesse Andrews
starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jay Bernthal
3.5 out of 4 stars
It is the rare movie that can rise above mediocre source material and excel at genre film as well. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl just so happens to be one of those rare movies, and I currently have no other examples. Me and Earl, as you might remember from my book review a few months back, is the story of Greg Gaines (Me) and his sudden friendship with Rachel (The Dying Girl). Her introduction to his and his coworker Earl’s (Earl) terrible movie parodies spurs an encompassing attachment to Rachel’s dwindling days.
I’ll let the movie speak for itself, as I highly recommend watching this unusual, sad teen comedy for adults. Me is played by Thomas Mann, taking the awkward teen from the book and adds the human he’s growing to be. Mann excels at developing the noncommittal friendships where Greg thrives avoiding any close connections. He has the physicality to pull of writhing across the floor and the timing to pull out terrible repeated jokes without inspiring loathing. More impressive is his portrayal toward the end, where the drama overtakes the comedy, expressing volumes of fear and lack of understanding.
Earl and the Dying Girl certainly steal the show. RJ Cyler debuts with a low, near monotonous voice with a big heart full of empathy. He is by no means an emotional character, unless it calls for it. Earl is a genuine person, insouciant with his coworker (friend), a concerned friend to the dying girl. Rachel is the gem in this movie though. Olivia Cooke, somehow somewhat typecast as “the sick girl”–she plays one in Bates Motel too–, can dig into your heart. Possessing a blasse demeanor covering a terrified teen, Cooke plays dead and guilt trips to others’ benefit. These breakouts stick with you far longer than the lead.
It seems that Jesse Andrews built this world for a second draft. Adapting his own YA novel, Andrews maintains the plot and the wackiness, trimming so eloquently and maintaining the best lines. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon moves to feature film with the similar camp hand that earned him an Emmy nomination for American Horror Story Coven, but he rakes in this superior script to monopolize on jokes that missed in print but excelled under his direction.
The nicely fledged film built from the sturdy but unimpressive frame has rewatchable qualities. Wholly underappreciated in theatrical release, this film possess an exceptionally strong youthful cast surrounded by hilarious adults (Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, and Connie Britton are wine fueled, philosophical, and overinvolved, respectively). Most impressively, this film is a story of friendship rather than love. Put away the notions of The Fault in Our Stars and watch a movie filled with affection and growth and none of the sex; because for goodness sake, high schoolers don’t always have all the sex.