By: Muneeb Arshid
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the 2015 Grand Jury prize winner from the Sundance Film Festival. It follows in the steps of Whiplash which won the 2014 Grand Jury prize. It follows the story of Greg (Thomas Mann) who is forced by his mother (Connie Britton) to become friends with a girl from his school, Rachel (Olivia Cooke) after she is diagnosed with cancer. Greg is joined by his “co-worker” Earl (RJ Cyler) to create a film for Rachel to “do something good for her”.
The first thing to note is the comedy in the movie. Considering it says “Dying Girl” in the title, you’d expect and be okay if it employed a sadder register for the entirety of the movie. But it leaves the whole sad portion for the third act of the film. It rides the thin line of being quirky without being irksome which is important because of the tendency for indie-inflected films to become quite snobby for the most part.
The stand out performance is of the character of Earl by RJ Cyler. A relative unknown, he is by far the funniest part of the film even though the film takes a focus on Greg and tells the story from his point of view. However, I would’ve liked it much better had Earl had the bigger role in the movie over Greg, as Greg’s character is something that has been seen in other films in the past.
The performance of Rachel by Olivia Cooke was very heartfelt and was a performance that you would connect to if you’ve ever known someone to have befallen due to cancer. Her initial response to her diagnosis is a very “teen” response where she’s like “whatever”. But as the plot progresses and her health deteriorates, Rachel isn’t afraid to voice her displeasure with the disease and the people around her as well.
A great little gag in the movie are the parody films having play-on titles based on the classic films of all time. For example, A Sockwork Orange for A Clockwork Orange etc. For any cinephile out there, it’s something to be appreciated even if those movies “sucked”, in the protagonist’s words.
Because of the plot, there is a very easy comparison to be made with the 2014 young adult film The Fault in our Stars. However, the register for this film is very “I hate people” in a funny way and the central relationship between Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is what grounds the movie.
This movie passes and graduates high school and gets a B+.