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Dan's Review: "Me & Earl and the Dying Girl" bucks the teen melodrama trend

Jun 25, 2015 11:47PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - © 2015 - Fox Searchlight

Me & Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight)

Rated PG - 13 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements.

Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine C. Hughes, Matt Bennett, Masam Holden, Bobb'e J. Thompson.

Written by Jesse Andrews (based on his novel).

Directed by Afonso Gomez-Rejon.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

There’s been a healthy market for “dying teen” movies of late, spurred by an equally healthy barrage of young adult novels of the same genre (The Fault In Our Stars, If I Stay, etc.). With a title like Me & Earl and the Dying Girl, you’d think it would be “just another movie (based on a novel) in a series of trite pubescent pablum. It isn’t.

Thomas Mann stars as Greg, a self-loathing but creative fellow who navigates the social jungles of high school by being acquainted with kids from various cliques, yet distanced from any of them on a more personal level. His best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) is his partner in making several tacky spoofs of classic films that they show to no one (among the witty titles are: A Sockwork Orange, 2:48 p.m. Cowboy, My Dinner With Andre The Giant, Senior Citizen Kane, Rosemary Baby Carrots, Anatomy of a Burger, etc.).

When Greg’s parents (played superbly by Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) learn that one of his schoolmates has leukemia, they force him to spend time with her out of pity. The girl is named Rachel (Olivia Cooke), and she doesn’t like the idea, but eventually allows Greg to hang around. She eventually learns about Greg and Earl’s movies, and takes comfort in watching them despite Greg’s objections to having anyone view them. Greg’s crush Madison (Katherine C. Hughes) hears about the movies and convinces the boys to make a movie for Rachel as she undergoes chemotherapy.

As the boys spend time with Rachel, they become friends, but their relationship is threatened as Rachel’s health declines. Greg becomes angry with both of them and becomes alienated until he has a chance to redeem himself by sharing his movie for Rachel as she stays in the hospital.

Me & Earl and the Dying Girl is a brilliant film that bucks the “teen death drama” trend by focusing on complex characters instead of the routine over-the-top sadness of cancer. It’s bolstered by great performances and a superb script from Jesse Andrews, who had the courage to stray from his own novel and gamble on developing his characters a little more.

Even though Me & Earl and the Dying Girl seems more like a comedy, it takes a sudden dramatic turn about ¾ of the way into the movie. This knee-jerk transformation might startle some, but the film is so well crafted that you’d hardly notice. It also ends on a sweet, reflective and comedic note that most people will relish with delight.


Me & Earl and the Dying Girl Trailer

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