Me & Earl and The Dying Girl is the latest film to be adapted from the long list of best-selling, coming-of-age young-adult novels. Following the success of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, last year’s inescapable blockbuster The Fault In Our Stars – and likely this summers Paper Towns – Me Earl and The Dying Girl is based on the novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews.
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Me & Earl & The Dying Girl is about Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), an awkward film nerd who is forced by his mom (Molly Shannon) to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Rachel is his classmate who lives down the street and is dying from leukemia (as Greg points out, this isn’t a spoiler because it is in the title of the movie). His best friend is Earl (Ronald Cyler II) and together they make low-budget remakes of Criterion releases and they decide to make one for Rachel.
Dying Girl is sharp, witty and poignant. The young-adult genre is troublesome because it becomes a marketing machine before the product is attainable which renders it disingenuous. My issue with last summers The Fault In Our Stars – a comparable film – is that it felt forced and simulated. Though it is unfair to compare the two, one is a great example of the marketing machine that has become of the young-adult genre; one is made to support it while the other happens because of it. Me & Earl and The Dying Girl may be part of this trend but is the most authentic and original young-adult film in since Perks.
Jesse Andrews wrote the screenplay for the film based on his novel of the same name and he paints an honest picture of longing for companionship, self-discovery as a teen and dealing with loss in all its forms: death, friendship and the loss of self. The film is so earnest in its themes and subtle in tone; not an outright comedy but often hilarious but also dramatic without overwhelming, The Dying Girl expertly depicts dealing with cancer at a young age and how it effects those around you, all without feeling tired.
The lead trio may be young but they are a fantastic cast with remarkable chemistry. Thomas Mann is outstanding as Greg Gaines, a selfish cinephile that’s in need of the wake-up call he gets. Olivia Cooke as Rachel is the anchor of the movie, and gives a gut-wrenching performance as The Dying Girl but it is Ronald Cyler II as Earl who steals the entire thing. Together the three of them have prominent chemistry that carries the film and gives it weight; this story feels authentic and relatable, no matter how distant or close cancer may be to your life.
Rejon smartly directs Me & Earl and The Dying Girl and does an exceptional job of being part of the young-adult trend without risking quality for merchandise sales. The film is honest, sublime and memorable and if all young-adult narratives were of this quality, there would be less trepidation towards the genre. Okay? Okay.