Me and Earl and the Dying Girl online movie review - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl continues to unfold in every viewing.
It's rare that I fall in love with a film so much that I watch it twice in a row. Then a third time the following week.
I knew while watching Me and Earl and The Dying Girl the first time that I had to watch it again as soon as possible. So I did the next morning. It's an anti-romance with the platonic relationship between "Me" and the "Dying Girl," but their chemistry and compassion sparks a delightful giddiness that's utterly life-affirming. It's perfectly paired with director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon inventive cinematic shorthand. It's a film that felt deeply personal and tailored for me from the moment Rejon put a couple seconds of a certain shot in Taxi Driver so that I immediately understood what he wanted to communicate in his scene. It's soaked in a pure love of cinema.
As Rejon begs, borrows and steals from all the best corners of film, its Wes Anderson whose spirit runs deepest in its corridors. Produced by Anderson's production company Indian Paintbrush, it's no surprise, and the material is all the better for it. Of course, Anderson is particularly inspired by other filmmakers, so Me and Earl runs like a condensed version - and frankly better edited than Anderson's work. Borrowing tilts, pans, wide lenses, rocking zooms, long takes, axial cuts, quick closeups, contemporary soundtrack and even a touch of stop motion and annotations, it's essential lower-rent Anderson. However, while that may be too derisive for many, Anderson is my favourite contemporary filmmaker and I eat up anything he does. This is thoroughly welcome in my book with Rejon's intelligent senses of space and motion.
More John Hughes than Rushmore, it does suffer from clichés that it deliberately brings to the table. It wants to be a self-aware deconstruction of the tropes, but it only half works. Side characters of high school students in obvious cliques are caricatures. This problem does seep into close quarters as its titular Earl, a hilarious deadpan RJ Cyler, is operating on a single contradiction. He's the least likely candidate to be a film buff, let alone a willing participant. But that's just the gag. He does move the plot along where the "Me"s Greg doesn't want it to go. The film, especially its first half, is heightened through the clouded perspective of Greg. Absorbed into the depths of cinema, he escapes reality which is reflected in this fantastical way he sees the world. He may be self-deprecating on the outset, but he's unaware how his ego shines brighter.
Nevertheless, Greg is a very relatable character. Film rarely touches on the idea of poor foresight in a way that truly resonates. As Greg allows opportunities to fly by, it recalls anything I refrained from grasping. That said, it's refreshing to see him desire to be a neutral outcast, as that was the bane of my high school existence. Thomas Mann, who I saw for the first time as a resistant volunteer in the last chunk of The Stanford Prison Experiment, impresses in a leading role that's full of reluctant personality. His dry comic timing endures my three viewings and he slowly peels off that shell with detail. However it's Olivia Cooke, the aforementioned "Dying Girl" Rachel, who emerges as the film's standout. She adds a stark dose of grave reality with ease, balancing the lightness of her endearing character with the bleakness of her impending mortality due to terminal cancer.
Full of youthful energy in the film's style, it's about the potential we have and how that can be wasted, through a lack of motivation and, of course, death. It's deep-rooted in a universal fear of change despite our perpetual limited existences. While Greg is initially reluctant to share his films, there's a wonderful warmth in how he eventually makes them for an audience of one with Rachel, and then becomes her favourite past-time. With its annotation of describing their friendship as "doomed" it's counting down the minutes until it broke my heart. Cinema is simultaneously a way to process reality and also to escape it - as demonstrated by the stoic way Greg and Earl watch their own work, when not interrupted by Nick Offerman, who's a reliable riot. As someone who watches and loves it as much as Greg, and the way grim reality seeps into the style of the film in the second half, this idea touched a bittersweet nerve.
It also wants to bring up the idea that despite mishandling potential, life doesn't end at death, and we dig up and discover facts about people all the time. The film struggles to reign in all its themes and existential ideas, which is part of the reason I watched it so many times besides its sublime construction, to decipher exactly what it wants to say. No clear cut answers have been interpreted, but I'll keep trying no doubt. The Brian Eno score will never grow old, especially with flourishes of Ennio Morrione-esque and Mark Mothersbagh style music thrown in for good measure - along with perhaps my new favourite usage of my favourite song, Lou Reed's "Street Hassle." Me and Earl and the Dying Girl earns all of its laughs and tears and although it has many cracks that I would have liked to see fill in - such as more on Greg and Rachel's elusive past - it does justice to its inspirations. A very promising letter to film's future and a love letter to its past.