Of course hipsters have found a way to make cancer ironic.
High school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) isn’t all that in love with himself. He’s self-loathing, whiny, and actually kind of selfish, but because he doesn’t try to stand out from among the rest of the high school crowd, he’s gotten along with just about everyone around him; even if they don’t know full well, just who the hell Greg actually is. The only person he does hang out with is Earl (Ronald Cyler II), someone he considers more of a “confidante”, if only because they film so many movies together where they parody Criterion classics. However, one day, Greg gets a bit of a wake-up call when his mom (Connie Britton) strong-arms him into hanging out with a classmate who just recently came down with cancer, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Greg does so, but because he’s such an awkward downer, the early times he spends with Rachel don’t quite go anywhere that makes her, or him feel better. But as time rolls on, the two start to hit it off, although the fact that death is always looming on the horizon makes Greg feel like he’s being too rushed for his own good; something that he apparently seems to be struggling with as the prospect of college becomes all too real for him.
There’s been many “twee” movies before Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and don’t worry, because there will be plenty of more. It’s just up to all of us to figure out what respective movie out of this subcategory is worth checking out, seeing as how it still works and is relatable enough, even despite all of its tendencies; or, if it’s just a piece of pretentious crap that only film school kids would love and adore. And thankfully, Earl is definitely part of the former.
Although it definitely does flirt with being a part of the later.
One thing to be said about Earl, is that it definitely loves itself. The whole plot-line surrounds the fact that all of these characters are so awkward and weird with themselves, that when it comes to honest, one-on-one interaction with another human being, it’s stumbling and odd. That’s the whole idea surrounding this plot and while it definitely offers up some neat little pieces of insight into teenage characters we don’t normally see these kinds of movies made about, the movie still thinks that having a numerous amount of scenes where characters stutter, mumble and dance awkwardly around what they want to say next, is the perfect solution for hilarity. Problem is, it isn’t and it gets to be a little annoying.
Though, the movie definitely does improve after the first half-hour or so. Some of this has to do with the fact that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon seemed to be struggling with how to find his footing with this material; which thankfully, he does, because the movie becomes something of a pleasant delight as it goes along. The movie may never fully get past hugging and patting itself on the back, but it does also realize that there are some real issues to deal with, rather than just shoving them off to the side, shrugging it all off, and moving on while moaning and complaining about how the world just doesn’t get them.
Sorry about that. A little tangent always seems to come from me when I talk about these hipster-ish types.
Anyway, as time goes on, Earl finds itself in a sweet place as it begins to discuss certain ideas that we don’t too often see in these kinds of movies. Whereas one movie would make the cancer all about the fact that life is ending, Earl takes it one step further and uses this as a device to explain what it’s like to grow up, realize that your future is right ahead of you, and it’s about time to take a hold of it. Don’t get me wrong, though, the movie doesn’t forget that there is a life in danger here at the forefront, however, it doesn’t also forget to explore the beauty in living one’s life, whether it was planned perfectly, or not. Sometimes, that’s the beauty of life – it can end up in places that you’d never expect.
And at the center of this flick, is the tender relationship that Rachel and Greg have – however, don’t expect it to go in places you’d normally expect it to (as the movie, once again, constantly reminds you of itself). While it would be so incredibly easy to pin-point exactly when Rachel and Greg would find certain interests with one another, start to get along, bond, and, eventually as time rolled on along, fall in love, this movie’s a lot smarter than that. Sure, they bond, get to know one another and definitely make each other better as a result, but they don’t have that one key moment where they fall in love, shout it out to the stars and decide to take a trip to the Anne Frank house.
Once again, I’m sorry, but sometimes, I can’t help myself.
As Rachel and Greg, respectively, Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann are both quite good in roles that seem to be tailor-made for their strengths. Cooke is smart, smarmy and funny, but she’s never too much of so to make us forget that her character is still dealing with some incredibly life-altering problems, and it’s these moments where she seems to break down and remind us of this that have the most impact. As for Mann, his character is more one-note in terms of how he constantly just shoulder-shrugs his way through each and every scene, but he makes it work with smaller, less-seen subtleties in scenes that you wouldn’t expect him to have it. Sure, he may be self-loathing and a tad bit self-righteous, but he also seems to clearly care for others when push comes to shove and definitely wants that human connection he hears is so much of the rage back home. And then, of course, there’s Earl, played wonderfully by Ronald Cyler II, who you should know is just as charming as the title makes him out to be.
Hence why he’s in the title.
Consensus: While some of its stylistic tendencies tend to get a bit excessive, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl still keeps its heart in the right place to make it affecting coming-of-ager, without really settling for the sappy moments these kinds of movies are expected to have.
7.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire