Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton,
Best picture winner at Sundance this year, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was snapped up by Fox Searchlight in hopes of pushing it into the awards season. The indie film arrives joins the likes of Juno or The Kings of Summer with quirky behavior, relatable characters and perfect blend of humor and emotion. It isn’t surprising to see another teenage film with cancer as the central theme given the success of last year’s Fault in Our Stars. However, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a different animal all together. It doesn’t rely on franchise or household names to get butts in the seat, it’s as organic as it can be with author Jesse Andrews adapting his personal novel to the big screen.
High school senior Greg (Mann) comes from a loving but outwardly eccentric family. He is content not fitting into one specific identifiable group in high school, because he has managed the rare feat of being marginally accepted by all of them. Sometimes he is too smart for his own good, hearing a classmate say, “Oh your test was today”, to which he does a typical flyby reply, “Tests, oh, been there”. That test belonged to his neighbor Rachel whom he barely knows. The test was one ran by a doctor, looking for cancer, leukemia turns out to be the prognoses. Literally forced by his mother (Britton), Greg spends time with Rachel, creating a unique friendship. Yet he tells the audience, this isn’t a love story, and not to worry, that she doesn’t die in the end.
I applaud the film for providing subject matter that will inevitably create conversation between parent and teenager.
Most of the time ‘Earl’ goes out of its way to be different, and that’s fine, because it’s still honest enough that it doesn’t always feel contrived, but it is. We get far too few films, high on quality, rich in storytelling, appealing to such a variety of age groups. I know this one did do to the audible sobbing at test screenings. Being relatable is something so few films manage to achieve, when actors can create versions of people we know, it’s already done a great job. Mann’s performance here is similar to Ellen Page in Juno, it’s defining in terms of his career, but it’s also clever, witty and in the end we feel like we get who he is and what he’s about.
First time actor RJ Cyler provides much of the comedic relief for the film as Earl; which you need in a film with “Dying Girl” right there in the title. Yet maybe it’s because the film doesn’t touch new ground, or we have cried all our tears over similar recent subject matter, I didn’t find myself as touched as I clearly should have been compared to the rest of the audience. Maybe the script’s reliance on comedy made me numb to the few emotional parts, but while I appreciated the writing I never pitied these characters, and I mean that with respect. I applaud the film for providing subject matter that will inevitably create conversation between parent and teenager.
Endearing, creative and clever, should provide great conversations between parents and children.