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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie Review - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Katherine Hughes, Jon Bernthal, Molly Shannon, and Connie Britton
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

There's no hiding the fact that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a movie about a disease.  In this case, it's cancer and the dying girl in the title is Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a high school senior who is diagnosed with leukemia.  The "Me" in the title is Greg (Thomas Mann), a wry, witty loner of sorts who has managed to make his way through high school by being pleasant enough to every single clique or group, but never really joining any of them.  This casual sense of invisibility has proved to be very successful for Greg, but it's also made him a bit of a loner with the exception of his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) with whom he makes hilariously ridiculous recreations of art house films.  When Greg's mom (Connie Britton) forces her son to visit Rachel after she's been diagnosed (with whom he's said very little to in the entirety of high school), Greg connects with Rachel's wry sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude and the two begin to form a friendship.

As I said, there's no hiding the fact that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a disease movie.  It places cancer squarely at the forefront.  However, the film doesn't create a two-hour mope-fest.  Instead, screenwriter Jesse Andrews and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon have created one of the funniest films I've seen this year.  There's a hip, irreverence imbued in both the dialog and the way the film is shot and acted that immediately clicked with me.  I belly-laughed multiple times (mostly at Greg and Earl's homages/recreations of films), yet still think the film does a nice job at balancing the humor with the pathos.

That said, despite great turns from RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, and Thomas Mann (who is quite captivating and oddly charming as the lead), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl didn't quite click with me emotionally.  Considering the subject matter, I was expecting to be a little more affected.  Granted, this flick doesn't carry the maudlin overtones of something like A Fault in Our Stars (a film which I like quite a bit), but perhaps because of that lack of gravitas, I found myself oddly unmoved as the film reached its conclusion which ultimately felt like a little bit of a letdown.

In only his second film, director Gomez-Rejon shows much promise.  Sure some of the adults (particularly Molly Shannon as Rachel's mother) feel a little too one-note (which is a fault of the script in part) and he doesn't quite hit the bullseye emotionally in the end in the way the way he really needs.  However, there's a freshness to what he's brought to the screen that's refreshing and inviting.  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl doesn't hit quite all the right notes, but it comes darn close.

The RyMickey Rating: B

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