Movie review: Smarts, sweetness overcome quirks in indie 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'
There are many reasons to fault "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," but it's sweet enough, and smart enough, to overcome every one of those reasons.
Still, they exist. First off, the "Dying Girl" bit — didn't we just go through this, and five boxes of tissues, with last year's "The Fault in Our Stars"? And then there's the supporting characters — an overly tattooed teacher (Jon Bernthal), a pigfoot-eating dad (Nick Offerman), a boozy, flirty mom (Molly Shannon). It's like someone just wrote "insert quirky indie film character."
Worse, this is yet another movie about making movies. Talk about being self-involved, moviemakers.
Yet it works (OK, the quirky characters are a bit much), mostly because of its fine young cast and the steady hand of director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon ("Glee," "American Horror Story"). You believe enough in these kids, and hope enough for them, to buy it.
Standing center is Greg (Thomas Mann), the kind of high school kid who breezes through life without allowing himself to connect with anyone. His only real friend (although he'd never use that word) is Earl (RJ Cyler), a black kid from the poor side of town. For years they've been making art film parodies with titles like "A Sockwork Orange" and "Eyes Wide Butt," films Greg derides, but which are actually ingenious.
Then one day, Greg's mother (Connie Britton) tells him a classmate he hardly knows, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), has cancer, and she pushes him to visit her. Which he does, and although she's initially wary of being pitied, a friendship of loners blooms. So Greg and Earl set out to make a movie for Rachel.
And what a movie. In making something real, and facing something real, Greg finally learns to get real.
'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'
Rated PG-3 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements
Running time: 105 minutes