What seems to become a benchmark of teenage/coming-of-age films is the embracing of a social awkward archetypal character at the center of the tale. Perks of Being A Wallflower & Paper Towns both feature these characters, trying to negotiate their way through high school, much like Greg Gaines. The ‘Me’ in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
It’s not often as well that a film is created so brilliantly that it can actually affect the spectrum of emotions. And it’s not often I immediately have the impulse to watch the film again after it ending. (Last time was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty)
This film is pretty much bread and butter with the title. It features Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), Earl (RJ Cyler) and Rachel (Olivia Cooke) as the titular ‘dying girl’. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl opens with Greg pretty much going through the rigors of high school and showing his method of having citizenship with every social group, from the fist bumps with the stoners to the head nod from the jocks.
Greg mainly spends time in his teacher Mr McCarthy’s (Jon Bernthal aka the coolest teacher ever) office with Earl to avoid the social anxiety he would be subject to in the cafeteria. Greg has coasted through high school up until this point, until his mother forces him to spend time with the aforementioned Dying Girl, Rachel.
The film then takes on a sort of 500 Days of Summer feel with the beginning of a ‘Doomed Friendship’ countdown between Greg and Rachel. When Greg introduces Rachel to Earl (he’s accidentally on drugs) Earl reveals that they remake classic films in a parody style whilst reworking the titles like A Sockwork Orange and My Dinner with Andre The Giant. (They actually include clips from said films which are just simply brilliant and made me chuckle heartily).
Much of the film then takes on this tone of Greg and Rachel bonding whilst Greg continually insists that this is not a love story where Rachel will share that loving gaze and the feelings will sprout. They simply get together and watch films and talk about ‘stuff’.
Greg’s social ineptitude becomes the centre of the comedy in this film due to his inability to filter his thoughts before exclaiming them including him inexpicably blurting out that he is going to masturbate on Madison’s ‘child’ pillow to the disgust of the girl sub-group.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon did a fantastic job at the helm of this project, directing the very superb performances from the trio, but also excellently negotiating the balance between the comedy and the drama that takes ahold of the latter stages. The film deals with this subject expertly and even includes the strain on relationships that this could cause through Rachel and her relationship with Greg and even Greg’s relationship with Earl.
I cannot commend this enough. Personally it’s not often a film that expertly navigate you through the range of emotions that Me Earl and the Dying Girl did, from the euphoric comedy to the heart-aching story at the centre. It had an immeasurable amount of heart in this film and this is down to the on-screen presence of the titular trio.
The film having the parodies and the chemistry between the trio make the viewing time melt away because of the pure enjoyment that can be received from this. The characters all work and they bounce off each other really well and obviously Greg’s social ineptitude fits perfectly into this film.