October 19, 2015

Me Earl and the Dying Girl

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, 2015
With a title like "Me Earl and the Dying Girl", you probably immediately anticipate something snappy, and the title itself almost sounds like a bad television sitcom starring Jason Lee. While the title may get you excited for a potential zombie rom-com like My Boyfriend's Back (deep pull alert), alas, it's a film about a girl with cancer. But hold up. It's more of the anti-film to last year's I dare you not to cry tearjerker A Fault in Our Stars. Fault puts the weight of the world on a relationship of two young kids stricken with cancer. Me Earl is more realistic in terms of showing a relationship between two people without being manipulative with oxygen tubes and Vance Joy songs. It even has hints of Jason Reitman's beloved snappy hipster-film Juno.

The movie focuses largely on high-schooler Greg (Thomas Mann). Greg is admittedly a neutral force in the world. He passes swiftly through the halls of the high school. He feels it's unnecessary to get involved with one particular clique of people, which may upset his balancing act that he has carefully orchestrated over his time there. A side effect of this is he never has to fully engage with another human on a deeply emotional level. So when his parents inform him of classmate Rachel's illness (Rachel being played by the delightful Olivia Cooke), he is concerned, but not DEEPLY concerned. He is pressured to hang out with Rachel, and humorously, they both acknowledge the obligation.

Greg's narration early in the film gives you the heads up that it's not going to be a cheesy love story. Instead the film for the most part runs on a different kind of energy. An energy that tends to be more upbeat, more quirky, more engaging. It ends up being a rather moving small film that has a lot to say about a particular period in life. That really selfish high school phase. That phase where all you can really think about is yourself and your future. And there's nothing wrong with admitting to living with that particular mindset. It's a period of pressure for most people. But this story shows us that while some people are focused on moving on to college, there's an unfortunate percentage of people that may be moving on to the next stage of chemotherapy. And that's just part of life.

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