Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Usually, if someone describes a film (or, indeed, a person) as kooky and quirky, I’ll hate it (or them). The film will probably star Zooey Deschanel as someone who only listens to vinyl and plays a ukulele and owns curtains made of hemp (I still have no idea what hemp is).

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (a film that’s spent 95% of its marketing budget assuring you it’s not a rip-off of The Fault in our Stars) is kooky and quirky… and highly enjoyable. Its success lies in the title’s third element (if you have impending death in a film, it really can’t stray too far into the whimsical).

Forced by his mother, Greg (played by Thomas Mann)must visit and entertain leukemia-diagnosed Rachel. Through their meetings, they strike up a platonic friendship, and eventually their meetings become more like sessions, as the sick Rachel begins to heal the damaged Greg. Some scenes even become oddly reminiscent of Good Will Hunting.

Then there’s Earl, who Greg describes as his ‘co-worker’ as the two make movie homages together (The Sockwork Orange, The 400 Bros, etc). A surprising aspect of this film is how cine-literate it is. When Greg must make an awkward phone call, the camera pans away to the TV showing the Taxi Driver scene with the most famous pan away from an awkward phone call in cinema history. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is sprinkled with these charming and affectionate film moments and each one is an absolute joy.

However, a film can’t just be a series of cute cinema references. Luckily these segments are woven carefully throughout, the film parody in question usually indicating the state of mind of the characters or signifying a possible plot point. But, most importantly, they allow Greg a fleeting second of escape.

Much like Dope (and The Spectacular Now, which may prove to be the most important end-of-high-school movie of this era), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl takes place just as Greg is beginning the transition to college. Greg has always prided himself on not adhering to one group, but that has left him distant and friendless. In classic coming-of-age style, he must learn from the wisdom of others, the failures of adults, and change himself into a more selfless human being. Predictable yes, but also heartwarming.

Perhaps the ending isn’t as moving as it could be, but the journey there was funny and fresh, and, for a film-lover, a thriving treasure chest of cine-magic. This film will probably have the best DVD extras of all time.


by Rían Smith

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