Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Review #1,208

Director:  Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Cast:  Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Plot:  High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama
Awards:  Won Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award (Sundance). 
Runtime:  105min
Rating:  PG13 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements.
Distributor:  20th Century Fox

“We make films.  We've been making them since we were little...”

This is one of those movies about a girl dying from cancer, and a boy trying to make her feel better.  Starring Thomas Mann as Greg, the socially awkward boy in question, and Olivia Cooke as Rachel, the girl stricken with leukemia, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl covers the kind of familiar ground associated with coming-of-age movies about a dying other. 

While 50/50 (2011) brilliantly balanced comedy with sensitivity, and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) going straight for the emotions, Me and Earl is a mix of both, with a huge dose of dorkiness.  Much of the film aspires for greatness, but it doesn't quite hit the right notes as it ought to. 

For the film to have won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, it does come as a tad overrated, not to mention it is also occasionally tonally flat – some of the comedy fall in the category of being unfunny but you laugh anyway.  Well, that is okay... but if the movie takes it a bit more seriously than you would expect, there might be a problem.

The performances are alright, with a notable display from Cooke, who provides much needed levity as the emotional anchor for the film.  But what elevated Me and Earl out of the above-average bin is its surprisingly powerful climax, accompanied by the soul-stirring music of Brian Eno and Nico Muhly. 

Film enthusiasts can also find a treasure trove of not just film references, but film music references littered throughout the movie.  One of key tropes of Me and Earl is the amateurish filmmaking exploits of Greg and his buddy Earl, taking well-known American and world cinema classics and doing a 'sweded' version with hilarious titles (the idea of 'sweded' films comes from Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind (2008)). 

For example, A Clockwork Orange becomes ‘A Sockwork Orange’, with the film's famous opening scene shot with socks.  The use of film music, such as main themes from pictures like A Fistful of Dollars (1964), The Conversation (1974) and The 400 Blows (1959), will thrill cinephiles with a keen ear.

Me and Earl's playful reference (not so much reverence) to cinema does connect in some way – perhaps it connected well with the Sundance jury?  The film doesn't quite pull off a winning formula, though it might just have enough eccentricity to surprise audiences in for something familiar yet quaint.

Verdict:  A tad overrated and occasionally tonally flat, this terminal cancer coming-of-age comedy-drama has its moments of distinctiveness and playful reference towards cinema, but the ground that it covers remains familiar.


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Arion said…
I'd like to go see it. And you caught my attention with the movie references. By the way, I just read your post about While We're Young and it was great. You seem to be a bit of an expert in Noah Baumbach. Anyway, I also wrote about the film in my blog (wich I encourage you to visit):

I hope you enjoy my review, and please feel free to leave me a comment over there or add yourself as a follower (or both), and I promise I'll reciprocate.


Eternality Tan said…
Thanks for sharing... appreciate it! I have briefly checked out your blog - you seem to be a comic enthusiast!

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