Granger on Movies: ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’
Published 7:33 am, Friday, June 26, 2015
Granted, the title might be a bit of a turn-off, along with the fact that it’s about cancer. But let me assure you that it’s one of the best indies of the year.
Pittsburgh high school senior Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is one of those painfully shy, self-conscious kids who says he would rather remain invisible and eat lunch alone — or watching Werner Herzog movies in the office of his heavily tattooed history teacher (Jon Bernthal) — than be part of any cafeteria clique.
Yet, like everyone else, Greg yearns for acceptance. His best-friend is Earl (RJ Cyler), an African-American classmate whom he refers to as his “co-worker.” Aspiring filmmakers, Greg and Earl make short parodies of classic and foreign films, dubbing them “Senior Citizen Kane,” “A Sockwork Orange,” “Breath Less,” “Pooping Tom” and “2:48 p.m. Cowboy.”
Greg lives in a middle-class suburb with his eccentric professor father (Nick Offerman) and overbearing mother (Connie Britton), who forces him to befriend a boozy neighbor’s (Molly Shannon) daughter, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has been diagnosed with leukemia.
When Rachel brusquely retorts that she doesn’t want his pity, Greg bluntly tells her, “I’m not here because I pity you. I’m here because my mom is making me.”
As they talk in her bedroom, Rachel recognizes Greg’s insecurity, and a strong bond begins to grow between them. Watching Greg and Earl’s silly spoofs brightens Rachel’s day, particularly when her treatment gets tougher to take.
Cleverly adapted by Jesse Andrews from his 2013 young adult novel and sensitively directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), the quirky, often comedic narrative — with its own chapter titles — adroitly captures the exquisitely awkward agony of teen angst, bearing an affinity with “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Much of the credit for its effectiveness also goes to Korean cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung for constant visual surprises, along with several animated sequences, and Brian Eno’s affecting score.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a wryly inventive 9. Put this insightful, contemporary coming-of-age movie on your “must see” list.
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