Reviewed by Rosemarie Leenerts, Library Assistant
Many cancer-themed movies involving teens and young adults have been made, but none is as quirky, realistically portrayed, heartrending, and beautifully filmed as 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Based on the novel by the same name by Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl is about a teen boy, his buddy, and a girl he befriends after she is diagnosed with leukemia. Though the title gives the theme away, this film is anything but sappy. It is, however, unusually funny and has relatable and unique characters that are not the typical beautiful people who fall in love à la The Fault in Our Stars.
Me and Earl is about an average-looking, pasty-complexioned high school senior named Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), who flies under the radar with every group at school, not forming any deep attachments other than to his “coworker” Earl (R.J. Cyler). Earl Jackson is Greg’s African American neighbor, who lives with his older brother and a ferocious pit bull named Doobie. The boys, who have been a part of each other’s lives since kindergarten, come from different backgrounds, but they share a love of strange, old movies introduced to them by Greg’s tenured-professor father (Nick Offerman), who never seems to work. Their love of film has brought them to create movies of their own, all of them remakes of films whose themes and titles they have tweaked to make something totally absurd. Citizen Kane, for instance, becomes Senior Citizen Cane. A Clockwork Orange is renamed A Sockwork Orange, performed by sock puppets, of course.
When Greg is guilt-tripped by his mom (Connie Britton) to lend support to his newly diagnosed classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), Greg does everything in his power, including writhing on the floor, to get out of the arrangement, but he finally gives in. Rachel is, of course, aware that Greg is only coming by because his mom made him, and there starts the reluctant relationship between the two, which culminates in a tearjerker ending whose backdrop is a film Greg makes for Rachel, the only person he has ever allowed to watch his and Earl’s movies.
Winner of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and also starring Molly Shannon, does have its cringey moments (for instance, Greg’s pillow monologue and Earl’s obsession with asking if Greg has gotten to second base), but, all in all, it offers a fresh perspective on the cancer theme and how it is to live for someone other than oneself.
In observance of Blood Cancer Awareness Month and Hispanic Heritage Month for director Gomez-Rejon, reserve, check out, and pick up Me and Earl and the Dying Girl through curbside pickup.