A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Produced By: Jeremy Dawson, Dan Fogelman, Steven M. Rales
Written By: Jesse Andrews (Screenplay & Novel)
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is a blended film. It’s a blend of 2008’s Be Kind Rewind and 2014’s The Fault In Our Stars, with a splash of 2010’s Submarine’s quirk thrown into the mix.
It’s a blend of satire, cooky comedy and deep emotional drama with significant weight.
It’s a technical blend of semi-conventional narrative approaches with unconventional cinematographic techniques.
It’s a blend of nostalgia and anticipation, optimism and regret, fantasy and reality and it’s a mighty good film!
Greg (Thomas Mann) is an awkward, reclusive, socially invisible teen who wants nothing more than to breeze through high school unnoticed, without causing a stir or making any mortal enemies along the way.
Things are going pretty well for Greg in that regard, until one day his mother forces him to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a girl from school who has recently been diagnosed with Leukaemia. Greg’s ‘work associate’ Earl (RJ Cyler), accompanies Greg in their teacher Mr McCarthy’s (Jon Bernthal) office for lunch each day, whilst helping him make pun-based spoofs of classic films (e.g. Senior Citizen Cane, Pooping Tom and A Sockwork Orange to name a few).
Given it’s Greg’s nature to be overly honest, socially inept and standoffish, the initial interactions between him and ‘The Dying Girl’ are a little rough, however though the enforced socialising, Greg learns to be sympathetic, supportive and kinder as a person, all the while impacting heavily on Rachel as she journeys through the toughest period in her life.
Character interactions are imperative to the trajectory of the story and the overall success. Thankfully, the dynamics between the three leads is wonderful and full of depth. The trio learn to connect and get through this as a unit, all the while taking something special from each other for themselves.
The dialogue exchanges are fantastically written and delivered; they’re smart, thought-provoking, amusing and raw depending on the stage the fluctuating tone is at the time.
Never is there a dull moment (in the boring sense); the script is sharp and precise, including everything necessary to develop characters and scenarios to their full potential.
From a technical aspect, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is a beautifully stylistic piece that is deliberately shot in obscure and peculiar ways.
There are shots with symmetry straight out of a Wes Anderson picture that draw parallels, contrasts and even forks in the road. There are tracking shots that tilt 90 degrees to transition in an obvious fashion. There are P.O.V. shots of Greg eating an ice-cream or staring blankly at a cat. There are wide-angle shots that create tension, separation and depth within a scene.
There are also stop-motion animations that metaphorically paint a picture about certain characters in reference to a hierarchy.
The shot composition and technical features of the film tell a story in themselves, without dialogue, acting or music to extend the audience’s understanding.
From a cinematography aspect, the unconventional framing of characters and stylistic approach adds an enormous amount to the overall picture, proving it is one of the year’s best looking films without a shadow of a doubt.
Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke’s performances are brilliant, as is their chemistry with one another. Mann has come a long way from Project X, while Cooke proves she is far more mature following disasters such as Ouija.
Cyler is definitely one to look out for in the future. The character of Earl is a reflection of Greg, a guide, a voice of reason without no obvious faults, and Cyler’s efforts capture it perfectly.
Nick Offerman, Connie Barton, Molly Shannon and Jon Bernthal are brilliant adult supports to the teens; offering guidance, support and optimism, whilst bestowing wisdom throughout the film.
If anything, Offerman’s father character was a little under-utilised, but the minor gripe doesn’t take anything away from the experience at all.
It would be a recommendation to everyone to see Me and Earl and The Dying Girl. It’s an innovative comedy with a rich core and superb stylistic appeal.
The story is a rollercoaster ride, however through grounded characters possessing a realistic view on the world, emotions are heightened and the qualities taken away from the film are amplified.
Producing the same effect as The Fault In Our Stars but from a braver and riskier angle, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is well worth the time as it is definitely one of the year’s best.