Thursday, 3 September 2015

Film Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl



Wasted youth and doomed romance is nothing new to the young adult genre, but Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl isn’t having any of it. In dispensing with meet-cutes and clichés, this adorable film breathes new life into a tired genre.

The titular ‘me’ belongs to awkward senior high-schooler Greg (Thomas Mann); bright and witty but a perpetual underachiever, Greg and his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) coast through their schooling life by making as few waves as possible. That is until they learn that one of the classmates, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), has been diagnosed with leukaemia and they form a close friendship with her via their shared love of film.

In leaving behind his gawky and introverted nature, Greg is slowly brought out of his shell by the determination and humour Rachel shows during her darkest days; Mann’s breathes life into his performance through hilarious blend of wit and eternal self-loathing. Cast in the same mould as Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower or Max from Rushmore, this film is as much about Greg finding his footing in life through Rachel as it is about latter’s cancer battle.

That being said, Cooke indisputably steals the show with a heart wrenching performance that never feels larger than life. With a newfound perspective on morality, Rachel’s determination to give Greg’s life a bona fide direction is the underlying bedrock of this film, and you can get all that from a mere glance at Cooke’s incredibly nuanced performance.

Comparisons to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars are inescapable, but Gomez-Rejon does his absolute utmost to distance himself from Green’s trademark sense of sentimentality and drippy destiny. Soaring musical cues are kept to a minimum, and there isn’t a forced love story to be seen. Through some clever self-knowing narration, Greg is constantly reminding us how this isn’t a touching romantic story, and I was relieved to see that Gomez-Rejon and screenwriter Jesse Andrews were true to their word.

With a title as bleak and absolute as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, you can pretty much guarantee that, at some point, the waterworks will be flowing freely. It comes as a great surprise then that Gomez-Rejon’s twee indie drama can so easily make you laugh. Earl, whilst not being the most three-dimensional character, does deliver some brilliant zingers that’ll have you in stitches. Nick Offerman also crops up in a great cameo as Greg’s eternally-pyjamas wearing father.

Film junkies will also get a kick from Greg and Earl’s affinity with arthouse cinema; armed with a Bolex 16mm camera and a vivid imagination, the two ‘co-workers’ while away their sleepy Sundays by recreating and reworking classic movies complete dorky parody titles such as ‘A Sockwork Orange’ or ‘Senior Citizen Kane’. My personal favourites were ‘Pooping Tom’ and ‘Breathe Less’, for obvious reasons.

Another highlight is Gomez-Rejon’s inventive camerawork; bursting with technical trickery and personal flair, his film comes alive through a mixture of eye-popping angles and dynamic movement. That being said, the director also displays a welcome understanding of where and when to be restrained; the film contains an impressive collection of scenes that are all carried out in one, elongated shot with little to no camera movement. One scene set in Rachel’s bedroom keeps things as simple as possible, with the Cooke and Mann doing all of the heavy lifting. No quick cuts, no clever tricks, no nothing. It’s beautifully simple and gives the cast ample room to showcase their substantial range and talent.

The Verdict: 8.5/10


A welcome respite from the endless conveyor belt of humourless CGI crapfests and cash-grab horror sequels, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a frivolous coming-of-age-tale with enough charm and visual flourish to catapult it into next week.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl opens in Australian cinemas today. This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out. 

2 comments:

  1. Nice write up! I enjoyed this one too. It was very different from what we're usually seeing with movies centered around teens. And the ugly cry face was intense. lol

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    Replies
    1. Cheers! I found this film really refreshing :)

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