Listen above to the review by Dennis Morton (Transcript posted below).
It wasn’t clear to me from the previews what I was in for, and the title suggested the possibility of a few hours of maudlin melodrama, but, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is not maudlin, and it’s like no melodrama I’ve seen before. I loved this film. I’ve watched it three times and I intend to see it again.
The Me in the title is an insecure high school senior named Greg. Earl is his best friend, and The Dying Girl is Rachel.
The film is structured like a book. Most of the major scenes are titled, as if they were chapters. And the book is a work in progress, penned by Greg. As the film opens, Greg tells us that this is the story of his senior year in high school and that he doesn’t know how to begin or where to start. And then it occurs to him that he’s already begun. And so – off we go.
In the first chapter/scene, Greg, the narrative voice, and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the film’s director, illustrate Greg’s strategy for negotiating his way through the myriad cliques that inhabit the halls, classrooms, and cafeteria of his high school. Greg superficially befriends each group in hopes of avoiding the enmity of any.
We soon learn that Greg and Earl, friends since grade school, spend most of their free time making short parodies of classic films. For instance – Mean Streets becomes Grumpy Cul-de-Sacs; Midnight Cowboy becomes 2:48 PM Cowboy; and Apocalypse Now becomes A Box O’ Lips.
But their routine changes when Greg is pressured by his parents into spending much of his free time with Rachel, a classmate who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Greg resists but his parents, especially his mother, insist.
And thus begins a relationship that neither Rachel nor Greg had anticipated. Greg’s wacky sense of humor quickly offsets the awkwardness that each initially feels. And what ensues, thankfully, is not your typical love story.
The script is intelligent, often very funny, sometimes sad, and always magnetic. The performances, especially by the actors who play Greg, Earl, and Rachel, are mesmerizing.
As the school year progresses, word of Rachel’s illness spreads. A classmate suggests that Earl and Greg take a break from spoofing the classics and concentrate on making a film especially for Rachel. They feel compelled to try, though neither of them has any inkling about how to proceed. The effort generates an unaccustomed discord between Earl and Greg.
Greg has grown so used to employing absurdity and humor to defuse challenging situations that he becomes frustrated and angry at his inability to create a ‘real’ film for Rachel. And when he finds out that Earl has informed Rachel of their mission, he becomes furious.
The movie script is true to its progenitor, the eponymous novel, because Jesse Andrews wrote each of them. The entire film is a fabulous balancing act and we are the beneficiaries. Don’t miss Me And Earl And The Dying Girl.