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Review: Me and Earl & the Dying Girl

Me and Earl & the Dying Girl
06.12.2015
9 10

PLOT: An awkward high school senior, Greg (Thomas Mann) who moonlights as an aspiring filmmaker with his best pal, Earl (Ronald Cyler II) befriends a leukemia-stricken classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). What begins as a simple friendship soon blooms into something deeper when Rachel’s health takes a turn for the worse, leaving Greg and Earl scrambling to make her a film of her own while there’s still time for her to enjoy it.

REVIEW: While I had a total blast at Sundance this year, the only sour note was the fact that I got shut-out of a last-minute screening of ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, which – naturally – became the breakout hit of the entire festival. I knew I had missed a good film but now, having finally seen it for myself I can tell you that I missed the best film of the whole damn festival. While Sundance didn’t produce anything quite on par with WHIPLASH this year, ME AND EARL came pretty damn close.

Given the plot description, you’d assume this would have a lot of crossover with the dying teen smash THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. While there are a few surface similarities, comparing this to that film is like comparing fillet mignon to a McDonalds’ burger. Sure, the latter is satisfying enough, but it ain’t fillet mignon. This is extremely succulent fillet mignon and the best film of the year (so far) after MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

Don’t think of this as a teen movie. Right from the first frame it’s clear that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is one of us, meaning a total film nerd. This is the only teen movie in the world where the two best pals at the center spend their lunch hours watching THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (with academic commentary by Martin Scorsese, naturally) or BURDEN OF DREAMS, while thinking up their own no-budget homages to movies like BREATHLESS (in black & white naturally), APOCALYPSE NOW, TAXI DRIVER and every other movie any aspiring film nerd should check out. The fact that their company logo is a tribute to The Archers (Michael Powell and  Emeric Pressburger) assured this film would hold a special place in my heart before even ten minutes had passed.

Yet, even if you’re not a die-hard film fanatic like Greg and Earl, this certainly has something for you. The relationship between Greg and Olivia Cooke’s Rachel is beautiful without being maudlin. Any grandiose attempt at a saccharine teen romance is aborted, with this opting to tell an authentic story. Rachel is no willowy angel. She’s a real teen, angry at her condition and the fact that she’s running out of time before she even had a chance to start her life. Similarly, Greg starts off as a typical insensitive teen, only hanging out with Rachel because his mom forced him to, and resisting friendships so much that he refers to his inseparable companion Earl as his “associate.”

The teen cast is superb, with PROJECT X’s Thomas Mann making for a very John Hughes like everyman hero, while Olivia Cooke is extremely naturalistic as Rachel, a far cry from many teen performances these days. But, the best of all of them is the incredible Ronald Cyler II as Earl. He’s so damn good. Earl starts off as a walking conundrum, rarely speaking while possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of film that belies his upbringing on “the wrong side of town” where he lives with his pit-bull wielding brother (who naturally turns out to not be such a bad guy). The way Earl is revealed to be the most compassionate figure in the film is incredibly moving, and Cyler’s got a great future ahead of him. His chemistry is especially good with Nick Offerman, in a supporting part as Greg’s film and cat-obsessed father. Jon Bernthal – the future Punisher – also steals scenes as the coolest/scariest history teacher since Sam Kinison in BACK TO SCHOOL.

All told, I absolutely flipped out for this movie. I’ve been totally ignorant of Gomez-Rejon’s previous work, not being caught up on the Ryan Murphy shows he works on nor having seen his remake of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (which I will remedy soon). This guy’s one to watch and ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL deserves to be the sleeper sensation of the year. This is literally a film that’s impossible not to love.

Source: JoBlo.com

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