Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I have no idea how to write this review. I don’t even know how to start it. I could say that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and that the screenplay was written by Jesse Andrews, and it’s based on a novel by Jesse Andrews. I’m guessing they’re the same person. I mean what are the odds that there are two people, both named Jesse Andrews, one of whom wrote the novel, and the other the screenplay? I’d say the odds are a billion to one, at least! I have no idea what I’m doing. All right, look. I’ll just start.

The part where I start the review.

Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is a high school senior, who somehow managed to make it thus far in life with the bare minimum of emotional attachments. He refers to Earl (R.J. Cyler) as his “co-worker.” They don’t have jobs–they make films. To be precise: they take classic movies, and put their own spin on them (bonus points for each reference you catch).

The part where I watch Greg meet the dying girl.

Greg’s parents (Connie Britton, Nick Offerman) coerce him into contacting Rachel, (Olivia Cooke) a girl he barely knows, because this girl has been diagnosed as having leukemia. This is the last thing in the world Greg wants, since he has no desire to leave his comfort zone.

Greg is the narrator of the movie, and to say that he is unreliable would be an understatement. The things he says are often contradicted by his actions, or by other characters. After reading the book and watching the movie, I believe that Greg and Earl are friends, and that Greg became friends with Rachel. At the very least, they were friendly to one another.

The part where I get myself into trouble.

In one review of the novel I saw on YouTube, Rachel was catagorized as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl; I don’t totally agree with this. She meets some, but not all of the criteria. She is not at all “bubbly.” She isn’t overly girly either. Earl points out that her room isn’t pink, nor are there any Hello Kitty posters on the wall.

Greg isn’t romantically interested in Rachel, nor she in him. He has a thing for her friend Madison, who is played in film by Katherine C. Hughes. If anyone fits the description of a MPDG, it’s her. She is bubbly, girly, and all that jazz.

If anything, Rachel is an example of the “Ill Girl” trope. She encourages Greg from the sidelines, while bravely accepting her fate. The thing is: none of this really bothers me. What does bother me is the possibility that Earl is an example of the “Magical Negro” trope. But enough with the controversial stuff.

The part where Werner Herzog discusses the films of Greg and Earl.

Greg Gaines and Earl Jackson are filmmakers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The films they make are pastiches–they are not “Sweded”–that is something altogether different. These talented young men transformed Martin Scorsese’s seminal work, Mean Streets, into a genre defining piece called Grumpy Cul de Sacs. Notice the non-traditional plural of the title. It’s that sort of attention to detail (or lack thereof) that make Gaines and Jackson stand out amongst their rivals, of which there are none.

I am honored and humbled that one of my films–My Best Friend–has been re-envisioned by Gaines and Jackson as My Best Actor is also a Raving Lunatic. Greg’s father proudly proclaims this film as his favorite entry in the Gaines/Jackson oeuvre. Who am I to argue with such a keen judge of cinematic excellence?

The part where I admit this was a bad idea, and try to get out alive.

I first heard about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl after the film won a sledload of awards at Sundance. Knowing that I wouldn’t see the film for quite a while, I read the novel. While reading it, I could easily picture it as a movie. What I didn’t know at the time was how wonderful the film would be.



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