Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

August 31, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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Just because a story is about teenagers doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as a movie only for teens.   This one won Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2014.

Taken from his book of the same name, author Jesse Andrews has adapted his novel for the screen to tell the story of Greg (Thomas Mann) and Rachel (Olivia Cooke).

Greg is in his final year of high school. He explains in voiceover his neat system for navigating school life by dividing students into tribes and subgroups – or nations as he calls them – and manages to be accepted by all without belonging to any particular one.  It is his way of avoiding intimacy and hurt.

He describes his best (and only) friend Earl (RJ Cyler) as being a co-worker as the two boys have spent years making parodies of classic movies such as Sockwork Orange and 2.48 Cowboy.

When Greg’s Mom (Connie Britten) pushes him to visit his contemporary, Rachel, who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia, he reluctantly complies.  He knows he will be constantly nagged if he doesn’t. The two families are Jewish although that is not really germane to the plot.

Over a period of months the young folk, much to their surprise, do become friends and it is the silly homemade movies made by Greg and Earl that bring Rachel some light-hearted relief as she struggles through treatment. Their friendship brings Greg into more contact with nations he doesn’t usually interact with, such as the pretty Madison (Katherine C Hughes) – part of a Jewish subgroup according to the narrator.

The diffident boy assures us there is no romance and that the girl doesn’t die and as he learns to care for someone else, he starts to grow up.

I liked the Philadelphia setting with its two-storey clapboard houses, the soundtrack is good and the three young leads are excellent.

There are recurring but subtle scenes of humour. Whenever Rachel’s Mom, Denise (Molly Shannon), is on-screen she has a glass of wine in hand and Greg’s Dad (Nick Offerman) appears to spend the entire time in a dressing gown.

While the denouement is a bit contrived, it does not detract from a charming and moving coming– of– age tale.

3.5/5  2015 Released nationally September 3  Rated M  105mins

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Screenplay by Jesse Andrews from his book Me and Earl and Dying Girl

Music by Brian Eno and Nick Muhly.

 

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