Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a well-acted indie drama, dealing with its tough material through snappy direction based off of an eccentric script, although it suffers from an ending that never quite sticks its landing.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the latest young adult novel adaptation to tackle the tricky subject matter of cancer through an off-beat and bizarre approach, blending together quirky comedy and serious drama, which makes for a film that’s well-acted and decently directed, but coming across as a tonal mess of ideas and concepts — never making for a film that feels complete and whole and instead something a little too unstable.
Greg (Thomas Mann) isn’t exactly the most popular kid in high school, yet he does his best to blend in with just about every friend group possible. He gets by on being that quiet one in the background, always making smart remarks or comments, without ever really offending anybody.
His “co-worker” Earl (RJ Cyler) is the closest thing to a friend that he has, but having friends puts Greg in a state that’s just too vulnerable for him to manage — so the two get by as co-workers with a shared loved for foreign and off-beat films, which they also attempt to make.
Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is a classmate of theirs that gets dealt with the shitty hand of having cancer. Greg isn’t exactly friends with her, but his mom forces him to make contact with Rachel in hopes of raising her spirits and the result ends up being a friendship, which is the scariest concept in Greg’s mind, because he’s a loner and doesn’t think very highly of himself.
Almost instantly director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon establishes Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as a far from normal teenage comedy/drama, balancing the film’s weird characters with a script that’s just as bizarre.
Greg is insecure, lonely, sad and afraid all rolled into one and putting him in the same room with Rachel creates so much initial awkward tension, but the two slowly start to form a bond that even cancer can’t break.
And it’s sweet and enduring and makes for a decent enough film that tackles such a shitty and harsh subject through a mostly smiling light.
But the film reaches a point where things stop being funny for sake of the film’s script and plot advancement and instead come across as weird and funny simply for the sake of being different or odd and it just doesn’t work.
Gomez-Rejon spends enough time establishing these fun and fresh characters, but then he skips the fleshing out part and nose dives directly into the more serious matter and suddenly the film struggles standing on its own two feet and becoming a well-balanced blend of both drama and comedy.
Stars Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler do a fantastic job as the film’s leading filmmakers Greg and Earl, with both young and talented actors providing a unique chemistry that’s not quite a friendship, but not exactly a partnership. Watching the two bounce such stupid comments and ideas off of each other is funny and different and being exposed to their relationship for long enough proves to be a heartfelt and warming experience.
Olivia Cooke‘s Rachel shares in on the film’s most memorable and dramatic moments, but oftentimes ends up settling in the background while the film progresses and keeps centered on Greg.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl never quite figures out if it’s more about Greg and Earl or just Greg or even Greg and the “dying girl” Rachel.
It tries to transition in and out of all aspects, but comes up short and lacking on almost every end.
Greg isn’t exactly the most watchable character, while his relationship with Earl is very quiet, which leaves his moments with Rachel feeling like the most important, despite Rachel not getting enough screen time.
The film reaches a predictable and somewhat disappointing end as it loosely wraps up its most important dynamic, while also attempting to hit all of the right emotional beats, but ends up coming up short in almost every way that counts thematically.
Nothing feels resolved enough to warrant a tear and almost everything before it feels like a slight waste of time.
Still, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is different and those looking for something a little different will probably find more than enough to warrant a viewing at some point in time.
My biggest problem with the film is that it often thinks that it’s cleverer than it actually is and that not only robs the film’s performances of their worth, but also holds the entire script back from truly opening up and exploring everything that the film so desperately tries to be during the first half.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is occasionally upbeat and funny, but mostly just another indie attempt at creating a unique story of friendship and love among youths out of the unfortunate fate of cancer. It never quite finds its genre or fits in, which is the film’s biggest problem and the main characters most redeeming trait. Odd.