Me and Earl and the Dying Girl played at SIFF 2015, although I didn’t manage to see it there. It won a “Golden Space Needle Award” for Best Director, which having now watched the film, I would say is well earned. Going into this movie, I knew very little about it, and I think that’s really the best way to enjoy it. So before saying too much, let me give you the short, spoiler-fee version of this review:
Witty, funny, and delightfully entertaining, I highly recommend Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. A stellar cast delivers excellent performances all around, including TV veterans like Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, and Nick Offerman. Even Jon Bernthal, of The Walking Dead fame, impresses as a militant-yet-nurturing high school history teacher. But it’s the actors playing the three main characters who really steal the show, and they’re just kids you’ve probably never seen in anything before.
The movie is charmingly quirky, to the point that it almost feels like a Wes Anderson film. Occasional cuts to colorful stop-motion animation are an especially whimsical touch, highlighting the protagonist’s hobby of making (intentionally terrible) homemade movies, whilst also illustrating the finer points of his inner monologue.
Long story short: Check this movie out, you’ll probably really like it. It’s a smart, funny, quirky film, a genuinely heartwarming story about unlikely friendships. A feel-good, indie sleeper-hit, this one’s the perfect movie for quiet date night at home.
Ok. Now that I’m given you the short, spoiler-fee version, here’s the full review. Stop here if you’d like to go into it blind(ish).
<<< SPOILER WARNING >>>
Ready for some details? Cool. First off, don’t listen to my advice in the short version above. Don't watch this movie on a date night. I thought giving any warning could be considered a spoiler, but this might not be the date movie you're looking for.
I mean, hey—do what you want—but if you’re expecting this one to be a lighthearted, feel-good, popcorn movie, you’re in for a surprise. Hell, just look at the title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Not to spell it out, but there’s evidence of some rather heavy subject matter right there.
Now almost everything I said above is accurate. The film really is witty, funny, delightfully entertaining, quirky as hell, and all of the actors’ performances are top-notch. The film’s direction is also excellent, which is interesting, because IMDB tells me the director is fairly new to making feature films. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has worked mostly in TV, doing episodes of American Horror Story and Glee! His work here definitely capitalizes on his experience with high school dramedy, but he takes it to a whole new level.
Speaking of artful direction, the climatic scene of the film is so emotionally effective—so moving—that it is outright devastating! I can’t explain why it is done so well, or how it manages to hit all the right chords, but this is cinema at its most powerful.
We watched this movie on a Saturday night in, my wife and I, just relaxing at home. And the film just left us shattered. Honestly, it’s like the old line, “It made me laugh, it made me cry.” That’s what art is supposed to do, right? Channel emotion? Make us feel something? If that’s what you’re looking for, you should give this one a look. It’s unlikely that this quirky indie flick will leave you curled up in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, murmuring to yourself that everything will be all right….
On second thought: Yeah, watch this movie for a date night! I bet it’s especially good on a first date.