Classic Movie Review: Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl (2015)

Posted: November 12, 2015 in Comedy, Drama

me earl and the dying girl

Greg (Gavin Dietz, Thomas Mann) is a quirky 17 year old high school senior.  He tries to fly under the radar by having superficial conversations with members of all the cliques in the school, therefore being invisible.  He has one true friend named Earl, (Edward De Bruce III, RJ Cyler) and they make short versions of avant-garde films.  Greg has no current plans to apply for college, even though his mom (Connie Britton) desperately wants him to go.  Greg’s mom also hears that one of Greg’s classmates, Rachel (Olivia Cook) has leukemia, and wants Greg to go visit her. Greg doesn’t want to go, he’s talked to Rachel once before, but relents after his mom’s further nagging.

The first meeting is awkward, but Greg finally makes Rachel laugh by mentioning the large number of pillows in her room.  Rachel finds out that Greg makes these short movies and starts watching them, which embarrasses Greg, because he doesn’t think they are good enough for anyone to watch, but they help Rachel get through her illness, and chemotherapy.  Rachel, in turn, helps write Greg’s personal essay for college, and he gains instant admission to University of Pittsburgh. Madison (Katherine Hughes) the prettiest girl in school, asks Greg to work on a film for Rachel and he goes about doing it.  But between all the time making the film, and taking care of Rachel, his grades start to slip, and his college admission is in danger.  Does Rachel survive her leukemia; do Greg and Earl finish their movie for Rachel?  Does Greg make it to college?

Words cannot describe how much I love this movie.  It’s true to life and honest about high school in a way that so few films are.  It handles the leukemia in a serious, adult way, Rachel and Greg don’t meet, fall in love and everything is hearts and flowers after that.  Rachel has good days and bad days, and Greg helps her through the bad days.  What the film does so well is communicate a sense of fun and whimsy, and it does that mostly through the films Greg and Earl make, there are some big laughs in the movie, mostly with the films, but also with Greg’s interactions with Rachel, Earl, and Madison.  There is a stop motion animation running gag that follows each of Madison’s appearances that made me laugh out loud.  The only movie I can compare this to is The Fault in Our Stars, Me, Earl and The Dying Girl is a much better film because it’s much more realistic than Fault. The ending is poetic, I think it was as close to a perfect ending for a movie like this as can be expected.

The acting is exemplary.  Thomas Mann does an excellent job of balancing the funny and touching scenes.  He’s mature enough to exude pain and loneliness, at some points and absolute unabashed, unapologetic goofiness at others.  It’s a tough balance, but he pulls it off. RJ Cyler is used mostly for comedic relief, but he has a few dramatic scenes, and is up to the challenge.  The real find here is Olivia Cook, she is asked to display a panoply of emotions and she delivers them all with equal skill. They are all in their 20’s and Cook is British, but does a fantastic American accent.

The direction is a visually active smorgasbord.  Every shot was shot from an unexpected angle, sometimes the camera would pan from person to person. Congratulations to Alfonso Gomez-Rejon for making what could have been a very bland directorial job into something very exciting and unexpected.  He handled the young adults very well, and I hope he gets to direct more movies in the future.

Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl:  Lively filmmaking from the start.


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