Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

2015 comedy-drama

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A high school senior who's had success blending in finds things unraveling when his mom forces him to befriend a classmate with leukemia.

This effervescent charmer with heaping portions of pathos isn't without its issues. It drifts, the last act is a classic example of just-a-bit-too-much, and there's manipulation. Part Fault in Our Stars and part The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this always threatens to turn into just another quirky coming-of-age story.

But I'm through talking about anything negative with this movie because I fucking loved it. I loved every single minute of it. I laughed more than I can remember laughing at a movie in a long time, just sitting on my couch in the wee hours and laughing in the darkness. I cried a little bit even when I knew exactly how this would end and possibly could have written the thing myself if I had any drive whatsoever. I fell in love with the characters, pulled for "Me" even when he threatened to become unbearable, and wished I could spend more time with Nick Offerman as Greg's dad; RJ Cyler, a bit of a throwback as Earl; John Bernthal as the boys' favorite teacher; and even Molly Shannon who is usually fairly irritating. There's magical cheese throughout, tangents for the story's tangents, and so many bones tossed for artsy-fartsy movie buffs.

You do have to wonder who the audience is. It's got a teen or college-aged vibe as a coming-of-age story, but at the same time, there are so many references to foreign films and avant-garde cinema. I was as well versed in that sort of thing at 19 as I'd expect anybody would be, and I wouldn't have been close to as well-watched as I needed to be to catch a lot of the allusions.

God, where do I even start? I'll start with the soundtrack, Eno-heavy and just about perfect. Lately, I've listened to nothing but Brian Eno's poppish albums from the 70s and The Smiths, so this was familiar. I don't talk to anybody about Brian Eno, but I suspect he's better known for his ambient works. The vocal pop stuff is some of my favorite music ever though, and even though I'm very familiar with it, the music still somehow managed to surprise here. I think it's all about context. "I'll Come Running" was used in a touching montage that nearly brought a tear, and there's "The Big Ship" in another perfect place in a 2015 film (The End of the Tour was the other). It's just a perfect song in a perfect moment, and I nearly want to weep just thinking about it.

I don't know. I'm kind of an emotional wreck right now anyway. And I think I'm a sucker for these types of movies. And I'm pretty sure I've figured out why. Just like I enjoy surrealism because they can fill a void I have by not remembering any of my dreams, these movies kind of help me live vicariously through 20-year-olds playing teenagers and experiencing a type of childhood that I never had.

Anyway, this isn't about me. This is about this movie, and like I said, I loved every minute of it. I thought the direction was really interesting. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and cinematographer Chung-Hoo Chung use space in interesting ways. The framing is often surprising, and I loved how the camera swirled during conversations. It's a beautifully shot movie, a tinge of grit giving it a timeless quality and a sense of freedom that makes you feel like these characters can go anywhere at all. It's just so refreshing, making the funnier parts even funnier and the more touching moments that much more touching.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the film parodies that Earl and Greg make. My favorite might have been 2:48 Cowboy, or that was at least my favorite title. References to Werner Herzog hooked me, and My Dinner with Andre the Giant, A Sockwork Orange, and My Best Actor Is Also a Dangerous Lunatic have the duo tackling some of my favorites. This one made me laugh, too:

Did I make it clear enough that I loved this movie?

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