Saturday 10 June 2017

Movie Review: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl (2015)

A high school comedy drama about the dangers of friendship and dealing with loss, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl carries an attractively impish attitude to help tackle serious themes.

Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is doing his best to cruise through high school unscathed. He maintains cordial but distant relations with everyone and avoids all cliques. Greg's one friend is Earl (RJ Cyler), but Greg even refers to him as a co-worker rather than a friend, since they have been creating amateur short movies together since childhood. Avoiding the cafeteria at all costs, Greg and Earl have lunch everyday in the office of cool teacher Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal).

When news spreads that Greg's classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has been diagnosed with leukemia, Greg's mom insists that he spend time with her. Initially reluctant, Greg and Rachel gradually do become friends, as he helps her through her treatment sessions. In turn, Rachel challenges Greg's philosophy of avoiding close relationships with anyone. Encouraged by attractive classmate Madison (Katherine C. Hughes), Greg and Earl start a project to make a movie just for Rachel. But for a young man who has avoided making friends all his life, getting close to a dying girl will prove problematic.

Riding the momentum of movie adaptations of young adult books dealing with death, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl joins efforts like The Fault In Our Stars and If I Stay in tackling themes of life in the shadow of the big goodbye. The formula is familiar, and features the attractive and likable leads, a soft romance, mildly irritating parents on a slightly different wavelength, and enough irony, sarcasm, and wit to make the difficult final resolution palatable.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, adapting the Jesse Andrews novel, throws in an unreliable narrator, a friendship-averse main character, and some laugh-out-loud moments thanks to an inadvertent misadventure with some hallucinogens. But for all its potential Me And Earl And The Dying Girl does get sidetracked. Greg and Earl's hobby of creating amateur short films inspired by movie classics starts out cute but is overplayed, threatening to take over the film. By the time Greg's final film plays its role, the ideas have clearly run out and supposedly deeply meaningful abstract mysticism replaces content.

Also undermining the film is choppy handling of the central relationship between Greg and Rachel. Well before the ending the evolution of their friendship peaks and then stagnates before kicking into reverse, leaving an emotional void in place of momentum as the final act approaches.

The relatively inexperienced cast is decent in relatively straightforward roles. Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke do their part in portraying teenagers just on the brooding side of adolescence, in his case due to an unwillingness to risk any connections, in her case because of impending death.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl captures its spirit and content in its title, and does not stray far from what is expected.

All Ace Black Movie Reviews are here.

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