A budding cinephile is guilted into spending time with a cancer-stricken classmate.
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, and Olivia Cooke
Initial Review by Phil Crone
The movie lives and dies with its characters, and most of all with Greg. I could see Greg being polarizing, but I found him likable. He’s got a dry sense of humor, rattling off several great lines throughout the movie, and he’s the type of painfully-stunted introvert that I think is easy to root for. We’re getting the story through his eyes, and it’s interesting to see how the story morphs as Greg tells it. His opening line winds up being all we think we need to know about his ruined senior year and terrible movie that killed a girl. As we go along, we feel Greg soften to his situation of being forced into an awkward friendship with Rachel and how it helped him grow as a person. This gave me the sense that Greg didn’t realize how much he cherished his time with Rachel until he’s actually telling the story. This impression is only reiterated by the details as the story progresses. Early scenes feel very stiff, as they should, given the situation Greg and Rachel find themselves in. By the end, I get the sense that Greg began to soften and present a more distorted, lighter side to the affair. He even goes so far as to retract his opening statement of Rachel dying, attempting to convince himself more than the audience that the ending isn’t already written. Ultimately, this gives me the sense that we don’t know the whole story about Earl or Rachel, but in Greg’s version at least, they’re impossible to dislike.
Beyond feelings about Greg, the other divisive point of this movie will likely be Rachel’s decision to stop treatment. It’s impossible to judge for any of us, having never been in a situation like that. (Or for me even more not knowing anyone in that situation either.) I think it shows maturity beyond her years, something you get the sense of from any person going through an illness like this. The movie does a good job of making that moment a real gut punch, just as it was to Greg.
And of course, I have to mention Earl, who steals the show despite not much character development. Earl dominates nearly every scene he’s in, whether it be talking shit to a bitch-ass cat, convincing Greg to get him ice cream, or trying to figure out if Greg will finally “play with them titties.” One thing I did get a sense of was Greg’s jealousy of Earl in a couple senses. For starters, Earl is light years beyond Greg in self-assuredness, which I think anyone would want to aspire to. Second, it seems as if there’s an entire romantic subplot between Earl & Rachel that Greg chooses to entirely omit from the story, and likely was an additional source of their falling out midway through the movie. It left me wondering what a version of this story from Earl’s POV would look like.
I really enjoyed “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl,” one of the better “quirky comedies” out there if you ask me. The structure is very well done, capturing Greg’s changing thoughts of the story as he puts it to paper. All three characters are very likable, with Earl nearly stealing the show in a support role where he doesn’t get enough development as a character.