Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
July 12, 2015 5:27 AM - Subscribe

High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

Based on the novel by Jesse Andrews, this is the second feature for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. It won the Grand Jury and Audience prize at Sundance.
Rotten Tomatoes
Critical review from The Dissolve.
Positive take from Richard Roeper.
posted by starman (10 comments total)
I suspect this could be a pretty polarizing movie. I was highly entertained watching it and laughed out loud with the rest of the audience several times.

The camerawork was showy but it was reigned in at the right times. A lot of it really clicked and helped add humor, like the "Vertigo" stair-climbing scene or the "On Drugs" sequence.

I agree with the Dissolve review that it would have been nice to learn more of the goals, needs, and aspirations of other characters (especially Rachel and Earl of course) -- this is probably why the end wasn't especially emotional to me but I did hear a lot of sniffling in the theater.

Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, and Jon Bernthal provide fantastic, colorful supporting characters. But again, it would have been nice for them to have at least a small arch rather than one or two quirky character traits (and I'm not even sure Britton had any traits to pull from in the script).

I got a kick out of all the movie references although it has been done before (Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry).. but I think I need to finally watch Fitzcarraldo now.
posted by starman at 5:45 AM on July 12, 2015

I went to see this movie because it had such a positive Rotten Tomatoes score, and I was sort of horrified that none of the reviewers seemed to care that it was racist and sexist in such an old, boring, predictable, cliched way. I was just glad to get home and find a couple of reviews like The Dissolve's, so at least I felt like I wasn't totally crazy. I think there were some good things about it, but I really can't get past the part where the black best friend and the frigging dying girl are just tools for the upper-middle-class dude's emotional development. Like, Greg doesn't even realize that Rachel makes her own art until after she's dead, and then it's only to illustrate a life lesson. Rachel can't be an artist, because she's just a girl. She can only be something that makes Greg a better artist, because Greg is the kind of person whose art matters. Earl's inner life is totally not interesting, because he's just there to call Greg on his shit. Who cares about the black kid? Do we ever even find out what happens to Earl, or is it not worth taking the time away from the extremely burning question of whether Greg will go to college? Where does Earl go to college, or are we not supposed to care?

I read a couple of reviews that were like "it's true that Earl and Rachel are just props in Greg's narrative, and that's unfortunate, but really the solution is for other people to make movies that care about the humanity of girls and young black men." And fuck that shit. It would, of course, also be cool to have more movies like that, but it is not too much to ask for filmmakers to care about the humanity of more than one character. It's lazy, crappy movie-making, and it ruins the movie.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:37 AM on July 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

I don't know if the movie is entirely ruined for me, but the whole time Rachel and Greg were talking about Greg going to college I was wondering what Rachel wanted to do. Greg says she should apply too and she demurs, but that's as far as it ever goes.
posted by starman at 8:31 AM on July 12, 2015

I actually thought that Rachel didn't think she was going to live long enough to go to college, or at least she didn't think she would be well enough to go to college the next Fall, and she changed the subject to avoid saying that. But we didn't ever find out what Earl was planning to do after graduation, did we?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:33 AM on July 12, 2015

I wasn't super impressed with this one. Mostly, it's just not very well written because I thought the acting and general production quality was pretty good. Just didn't understand a lot of the characters' motivations or why some things were or weren't happening. I particularly didn't like how the narration kept insisting Rachel would get better, which was really cheap in retrospect.

The scene where Greg first goes over to see Rachel and they talk about pillows was the funniest scene I've seen in a movie in years though.
posted by dogwalker at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2015

Yeah, the bait-and-switch about her not really surviving was very annoying. When they revealed that she didn't make it, I was almost surprised they didn't go with a line like "But I wasn't lying: she DID survive, in my heart, just like the social studies teacher told me!"

Other maddeningly flat supporting characters: Madison, who has no traits and only exists to catalyze the "make a movie for Rachel" plot, and Earl's older brother, who is a pretty offensive caricature.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 1:34 PM on July 12, 2015

I agree that the movie's point of view is problematic. But I also think it's problematic because it is so committed to the point of view of its main character. He's an unenlightened middle class white boy with a decent heart, but self esteem problems and tunnel vision. As a former one of those myself, it rang very true. And the facts that Greg treated his "friends" as props, and didn't learn and grow as much as he thought he had at the end of the movie were very clear, and intentional I think, though somewhat obscured by having to use the language and tropes of cinema. Yes, the last thing the world needs is another movie aimed at teenage white boys. But given that that's what this was, it did its thing very well. I mean, I'd rather have this than a Harold and Maude remake.

It really used its Pittsburgh setting well. And the Brian Eno soundtrack was fantastically well used.
posted by rikschell at 6:12 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I really wanted to like this movie (and there were things to like - I am not even a big film geek but I got a kick out stuff like the Werner Herzog impressions and the use of the score from The Conversation), but I came out of that theater INFURIATED. Rachel is such a nonentity (sort of a MPDG minus the manic), and the only thing Greg learns is to like himself more, which really doesn't seem worth the price of Rachel's death. Absurdly self-absorbed nonsense.
posted by naoko at 6:24 AM on July 13, 2015

I wasn't super impressed with this one. Mostly, it's just not very well written because I thought the acting and general production quality was pretty good.

Yeah, I kind of wish the author of the book hadn't also written the screenplay; it could have used a subplot or two. Although, perhaps his goal in writing the novel was to make the film, since so much of the movie is pretty visual and based on loving movies. But, part of what you can do in a movie that perhaps you can't do in a first person narrated novel, is show what's going on behind the narrator's back. We could have seen what the other characters were up to when Greg isn't around. The performances are good, and the main actor totally saves what could have been an even more sappy and self-centered character. This felt like a kinda indie The Fault in Our Stars.
posted by bluefly at 12:41 PM on July 18, 2015

I like this more than I thought I would. Possibly I'm just a sucker for a Pittsburgh as a location but it did capture the look and feel of life here pretty well. It is more than a little annoying that they decided (or the novelist decided) to frame the story of this girl's cancer through her annoying nerdy friend when it might have been a better story if we'd been able to view it through her eyes.
posted by octothorpe at 6:54 PM on March 4, 2016

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