Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
As is the Hollywood way nowadays, this is the film adaptation of another YA “sick-lit” novel, and although that Young Adult’s English teacher would despair at the ungrammatical title, this, as with the tale it recounts, is perfectly pitched at the target audience.
The “me” in question is Greg (Thomas Mann, Project X), an antisocial, film-obsessed senior in high school whose mom thinks it would be nice if he befriended a school acquaintance who is diagnosed with leukaemia. He introduces Earl (a break-out performance from RJ Cyler) as his “co-worker”, perhaps to support Greg’s defence mechanism that you should “Never commit to an interaction that isn’t low-key and mellow”. And the titular girl is Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a doe-eyed lovely who seems, as you’d expect if you recall teenagehood, considerably more mature than her male counterparts.
Greg’s ambivalent internal monologue accompanies us swiftly through Rachel’s illness, but the trajectory of their relationship is sufficiently different from that other bestselling cancer story, The Fault in our Stars, to warrant independent praise. The snappy screenplay was written by the novelist himself, Jesse Andrews, so one might trust the film has everything that was indispensable to the book.
Me and Earl also differentiates itself in this burgeoning genre by indulging in some dizzying camerawork and an entirely self-conscious narration which nicely articulates the travails of high school. In the eyes of its target beholder, the style is probably quite charming and edgy, chock-full of awkward camera angles and long takes punctuated by cute, stop-frame animation which nicely illustrates one key element of the teen male’s tortured psyche.
Curiously, laden as it is with indie pop cultural references (our protagonist rams home his cred in the opening frames by riffing about Russian punk girl group Pussy Riot and exalting the virtues of Vietnamese food), it will be interesting to see whether the youth of today appreciates the terribly clever (and hilarious) film homages as much as the older, knowing audience.
Amidst the obligatory angst, of course things get real and times get tough – but its charm endures and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl never ceases to engage and delight.