“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a movie so honest it hurts. Of course, any Hollywood movie about high school life would have to be glamorized to some extent, but the Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directed film is a raw look at how brutal life can be -- mixed with flicks of levity and quirky characters. It isn’t a love story. And you won’t leave the theater smiling. But you don’t want to miss it. Just remember to bring a box of tissues.
Greg Gains (Thomas Mann) doesn’t have any friends, but he does have acquaintances. It’s what he’s spent the past four years doing -- keeping everyone at arm’s length and not making enemies. His closest thing to a friend is his coworker, Earl (RJ Cyler). Together, they create hilarious parodies of classic films and have done so for years.
But his world is turned upside down when his mother (Connie Britton) forces him to hang out with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who was just diagnosed with leukemia. The two become friends (Greg defines it as a “doomed friendship”).
Greg’s blunt honesty about his insecurities is not only refreshing, it also makes him a charming, relatable character. These are the traits his friendship with Rachel is built on. He regularly visits her and starts to open up, with some help from Earl. But things go awry when Rachel tells him she doesn’t want to continue treatment.
Without giving too much away, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is an unforgettable film. Each character is fun and idiosyncratic; take note when Greg’s tenured dad (Nick Offerman) offers Earl obscure cuisine or when their heavily tattooed teacher, Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal), makes them say, “Respect the research” before they leave the room.
Though it could be compared to John Greene’s “The Fault In Our Stars,” it’s not cheesy. Instead, it’s filled with angst regret and unadulterated heartache, but it leaves viewers with realistic hope.
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” won the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. It premieres in select theaters June 12.
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