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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B-
Editing: B+

Self-conscious quirkiness has become less and less becoming in film over the past decade or so, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has that to spare. It's a specific type of "indie" movie that speaks to certain audiences, usually a minority one. It would be easy for many to dismiss it. But it deserves a chance.

In spite of some cinematography that tries a little too hard (no need for all those quick vertical pans), this movie actually has a unique charm. It achieves what The Fault in Our Stars aspired to with far less insufferableness. This is another movie about teenagers dealing with terminal illness, and it has its own problems, but at least the problems here are easily overcome. Quirkiness on its own is not a fatal flaw, even if it is excessive.

The "Me" of the title is Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior tasked by his mother (Connie Britton, easily the most misused talent here) to provide some companionship to high school acquaintance Rachel (Olivia Cooke), the "Dying Girl." He goes to her place under duress, but the two form a genuine friendship (often referred to as a "doomed friendship" in chapter titles) regardless. Greg already has a friend he insists on calling a "coworker," Earl (RJ Cyler), who he's known from the neighborhood since kindergarten and with whom he makes deliberately dumb parody movies. Cyler, incidentally, is arguably the best performer in the film, as the one character who seems to understand everyone around him more than they understand themselves.

Many people will recognize some aspect of Greg as their former high school selves -- wearing self-loathing disguised as "humility" on his sleeve. The projection of Greg's friendship with Rachel isn't necessarily plausible, but that doesn't keep it from being relatable. Less so, perhaps, with Greg's layabout-hippie father (a barely recognizable but fun Nick Offerman), or Rachel's maintenance alcoholic divorcée mother (Molly Shannon).

It's refreshing to see a young friendship blossom between a young straight man and a young straight woman that remains plausibly in the realm of friendship, with no romance -- Greg crushes on another girl in school, actually. In fact, Greg is fond of telling us in voice-over narration that in other movies they would be falling in love, and that never happens here; he reminds us of this perhaps a few too many times. But his friendship with Rachel is believable, as is the tragedy of the prospect of his losing her.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl manages an impressive feat in that it transcends the indie-movie quirkiness that bogs down too many other films like it. It has winning performances and a story that, while not wholly reflective of reality, tugs the heartstrings without being emotionally manipulative. It's self-conscious about being a "different kind" of movie about terminal illness, but like Greg himself, winds up winning us over in spite of is insecurities.

RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman and Thomas Mann chew the scenery in ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL.

Overall: B+
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