September 18, 2015
Greg (Thomas Mann) is an awkward introverted teenager who would rather stay invisible in high-school. Together with his childhood pal Earl (RJ Cyler), whom he would rather call his "co-worker," Greg would rather create strange little videos spoofing films he watched, as influenced by his quirky stay-at-home Dad (Nick Offerman).
One day, Greg's overeager Mom (Connie Britton) nags him to visit his schoolmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who had just been diagnosed to have Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. While Greg's first visit was coerced, he and Rachel actually hit it off very well and became very good friends. However, it was a friendship he described as "doomed" from the start.
Like all the other coming-of-age films before it, from "The Breakfast Club" to "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", "Me and Earl" also tackles friendship among teens and how these friendships develop their individual personalities. Being an independent film, "Me and Earl" does not exactly have the gloss of a big Hollywood production. However, being indie -- with unknown actors and non-mainstream musical soundtrack-- gave it a fresh and unusual vibe.
Lead actor Thomas Mann, with his unusual sad sack facial features, was the perfect actor for a role like Greg. He might be trapped in playing socially-inept nerdy characters like this for sometime though. RJ Cyler has that cool laid back brother vibe as Earl. It would also be his character who suddenly would spout the most intuitive and profound sentiments at the most unexpected moments. Olivia Cooke was radiant as the ill-fated Rachel. Her big round eyes are very expressive of her inner thoughts.
Being a film buff, the best of parts of the movie for me are those hilarious spoofs of old classic films as ingeniously made by Greg and Earl. Breathless (1960) by Jean-Luc Godard became "Breathe Less". The Grapes of Wrath (1940) by John Ford became "The Prunes of Wrath". Rashomon (1950) by Akira Kurosawa became "Monorash". The Seventh Seal (1957) by Ingmar Bergman became "The Seven Seals". A Clockwork Orange (1971) by Stanley Kubrick became "A Sockwork Orange". These delightful juvenile parodies were painstakingly made combining live action with stop-action animation and puppetry. The cover designs of their DVD covers were also very witty.
This film may not be for all tastes. Just last year, the depressing topic of cancer in a teenager was tackled in the box-office hit "The Fault in Our Stars." "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" may have the same central story, but it has a remarkable difference -- this is not a love story, not exactly. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has a hip and vibrant vision of Jesse Andrews' script (adapted from his own novel). It is more of a coming of age movie, about a teenager discovering himself and the friends around him. It was more about the journey and the artistic way it was told, than its inevitable destination. 7/10.