Review: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl Is Heartbreaking And Genuinely Funny
Title: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Screenwriter: Jesse Andrews (novel and screenplay)
Principal Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, and Molly Shannon
Summary: High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
When you go to Sundance there are certain things you pick up on. One of them is knowing which theaters and times will give you the best chance of getting into a movie via the waitlist. One of the better theaters is one a little further from downtown that is used late at night during the last weekend of the festival. When I tried to get on the e-waitlist for a 9:30pm screening of Me And Earl And The Dying Girl I hit the waitlist as soon as it opened and got the last spot in line. I didn’t have anywhere else to go so I got in line anyway thinking people wouldn’t show up. This plan did not work, and as it was beginning to look like maybe half the waitlist would get into the movie I took a free ticket to a 10pm documentary. While I was in line I saw the girl who was first in line for the film’s waitlist get in line to go to the documentary. She told me that no one got in the movie which is surprising for that venue and time. The movie got a lot of awards and sold for the highest amount that any Sundance movie has ever sold for. I was looking forward to this one and had fairly high expectations for this film.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl manages the impossible task of making a story about a young woman dying of cancer not only heartbreaking, but genuinely funny.
There are some movies or other pieces of media that I have to watch multiple times before I can make it through them without crying. It took many viewings for me to get through Big Fish (Tim Burton’s best movie) or the dog episode of Futurama before I could make it through without crying. I have a feeling Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is going to be one of those movies. Much like Big Fish I didn’t think the movie was going to wreck me as badly as it did. The first half or so of Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is very funny. Greg (Thomas Mann) and his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) have been making dumb movies for a number of years now and the clips make for some of the best laughs in the movie. They take the titles of a classic movie, make it dumber and then film it. The clips from these movies are great for someone who knows classic cinema very well, but are also just plain funny in their own right
The movie shorts aren’t the only thing that are funny about this movie, though. The dialogue is very sharp as Greg stumbles being so awkward he can barely function as a real human being. It’s very funny in a very relatable kind of way, and NAME just nails the role so perfectly. While Greg has more situational humor it’s Earl who gets some of the best one liners. Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is our dying girl and for most of the movie she is very funny while also being extremely insightful. Cooke really helps you feel for Rachel as she struggles with her cancer and the treatments that follow at such a young age. Rachel’s mom (Molly Shannon) absolutely captures the single parent that is trying to deal with possibly losing their only child, and Greg’s parents (Nick Offerman and Britton) are also very funny.
The second half the movie almost feels like a different movie as the tone takes on a much sadder tone with an ending that left me and half the theater in tears. There is quite a bit of cancer in my family so stories of people suffering from it tend to hit me very hard, and Me And Earl And The Dying Girl hit me like a freight train. The entire movie is helped by great directing by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who, despite mostly working on television, puts painstaking detail into everything in this film. The parody movies are beautifully shot, and different types of filmmaking from stop motion to more realistic takes are in the arsenal. In a way Gomez-Rejon and writer Jesse Andrews had to write and direct tons of micro shorts in their full length film and each of them look different from the others. It’s a hard thing to pull off and they do it beautifully.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is a movie that I went into with very high expectations and walked away very satisfied. It’s the sort of independent film that manages to take one of the great tragedies of our time, cancer, and not only make it funny but give it real heart as well. The Sundance movies are starting to make the rounds and this is one I would absolutely recommend you seek out, but just make sure you have a napkin or a tissue on hand for the inevitable tears.
Kaitlyn is a writer, film critic, comic book reader, and soccer fan. She's a native of New Jersey and currently resides in Salt Lake City. Kaitlyn is partial to female super heroes and enjoys independent cinema.