Funny, Frustrating and Devastating
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was the second of the two films I selected to watch this weekend and thought Sunday afternoon would be the perfect time to chill out to a slightly quirky indie film with potential. What a mistake that turned out to be but more of that later.
The movie is directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who has a slightly odd history including horror and several episodes of Glee. It is based on a book of the same title by Jesse Andrews who adapted his own novel for the big screen. The Me in the title is Greg (Thomas Mann) who has mastered a High School survival strategy of being acquainted with everyone but friends with no-one. The exception is Earl (RJ Cyler) who co-produces and co-directs spoof versions of classic films. Greg’s mother, played by Connie Britton, tells him that a girl from school Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has been diagnosed with Leukemia and that he should go and hang out with her. He reluctantly agrees to go over to her house and the two form an unlikely friendship that is severely tested as her battle with cancer has its highs and lows.
The heading for this review accurately describes the emotions I felt watching this film. There are sections of the film, especially in the first act, that feel willfully quirky and the humour didn’t work. Equally there are scenes that had me laughing out loud primarily because of the amusing corruptions of well known film titles and a fantastic voice over cameo that I won’t spoil. There is one scene in particular towards the end of the movie that is tough to watch and yet utterly compelling at the same time. This brings me to the performance of Miss Cooke who in this scene conveys so much in the subtlest facial expressions and in her eyes as we get a close up with the camera. As I indicated earlier not a film to chill out to – you need to be prepared for the gut punch that’s coming.
I have to say that my enjoyment of the film was almost derailed by the underwhelming performance of Mr Mann. He does the dry humour well enough but appears all out of ideas when having to emote opposite his co-stars. I understand that part of the story is Greg being forced out of his comfort zone and make-believe home movie world but his dopey expression didn’t chime with me. A common theme in this film is the sharp contrast in emotions and performances which is carried through to the supporting characters such as Greg’s parents and a history teacher at school (Jon Bernthal) who in some scenes are as barmy as anything but at other times are wise old sages. I struggled at times with this.
I would recommend Me and Earl and the Dying Girl to anyone but its a tough one to rate because there were bits that I didn’t particular like but its highs are really high. Another lead actor could have taken this film to another level. My rating 3/5.