Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
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It’s nothing new for coming-of-age tales to introduce the protagonist to death through the loss of a friend. Requirements for this story are some combination of the following: a self-deprecating hero, benignly neglectful parents, an odd but understanding teacher, an economically challenged neighborhood, and, of course, a heavily foreshadowed but still surprising death.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has all of the above, plus a narrator who lies to the audience. With a screenplay written by and based on the novel by Jesse Andrews, this movie is everything The Fault in Our Stars tried to be. If you liked one, you will most likely enjoy the other. This one is more quirky, in both the way it is filmed and its characters. With a cast boasting Connie Britton, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, and Jon Bernthal as the adults, plus a relatable Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, and Olivia Cooke as the kids Greg, Earl, and Rachel, respectively, the first two-thirds of the movie are often laugh-out-loud funny.
And then it becomes heavy, along the way promoting clichés that include the bravery of the dying leukemia patient. Greg’s quest for self-awareness is demonstrated through a college admissions essay. The movie achieves most of its comedy through masturbation jokes, a lot of “mild” language, and even an extended “accidentally on drugs” sequence. (The movie is rated PG-13 for “sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements.”)
The lesson of the film is murky but something to do with the rewards of being less selfish and paying attention to the lives of others. At its best, this is a movie about friendship, and it is refreshing that no central teen romance distracts from that bond. But ultimately Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is about “me,” and Greg is easily the least interesting character in the movie.
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