ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. 2015. DIRECTED BY ALFONSO GOMEZ-REJON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY JESSE ANDREWS. STARRING THOMAS MANN, R.J. CYLER, NICK OFFERMAN, CONNIE BRITTON AND OLIVIA COOKE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Films about dying girls are sooooo hot right now,’ a friend of mine remarked when he heard that I was going to see this film. ‘Remember THE FAULT IN OUR STARS…?’ Well, I haven’t seen that one but I passed a pleasant enough evening recently watching MAEATDG in my friendly local cinema. It didn’t set my world on fire and I may not remember much about it in a year, but I enjoyed it and the seats were lovely and comfy so I can’t complain.
Thomas Mann plays Greg Caines, a guy in his last year of his Pittsburgh high school. He tries to keep a low profile in school by maintaining civil-to-friendly relations with all the different tribes/factions. For the most part, this seems to work out okay for him. His only real friend is a chap called Earl Jackson, with whom he makes little amateur home movies. This was the part of the film I enjoyed most, being something of a film buff myself. Cue modest, self-effacing laugh, haha.
Together, Greg and Earl parody classics of world cinema like REAR WINDOW, VERTIGO, AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, DON’T LOOK NOW, EYES WIDE SHUT, CITIZEN KANE, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE THIRD MAN, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, THE RED SHOES and so on and so forth.
The spoof films are short, of necessity, and actually quite cute and witty. Greg gets his love of film classics from his beardy, stripy-muumuu-wearing Dad, who’s probably my favourite character. He wanders around the house cradling a coffee mug and making occasional profound pronouncements. He’s gas craic, as we say here in Ireland. He’s so mellow he named the family cat Cat Stevens. Geddit…?
I liked Greg’s mom, too. She’s what we think of when we think of the perfect American mom, always looking out for her offspring, always wanting the best for them and always giving the kid a gentle nudge in the direction of ‘the right thing to do.’ Like the lovely mom in the WIMPY KID books. She’s got nice blonde hair in a nice messy bun and nice big sensible glasses. I really liked her. She’s the reason that Greg ends up spending a whole autumn/winter with the titular ‘dying girl,’ in fact.
She tells Greg to go and visit Rachel from his school, who’s just been diagnosed with leukaemia. Greg is mortified and totally reluctant at first. Never underestimate the power of a nagging mom, however. When Greg gives in and visits Rachel, whom he doesn’t know that well, things are awkward between them at first. Almost excruciatingly so, in fact. But then things start to settle into a nice comfortable routine between them as they get to know each other. Earl gets in on the act too and, before long, the trio have become firm friends.
Rachel’s leukaemia progresses, however, and things get tougher for the chums. Rachel loses her hair. There’s naturally a montage to show her greeting Greg at her house wearing different wigs and a selection of terrible hats. There are lots of scenes depicting the wearing of cuddly pyjamas and fluffy bedsocks, given that this is a film about a sick girl who has to stay home a lot. Pillows also play a central part, and not only because they’re the kind of thing you’d find plenty of in a teenage girl’s bedroom. Intrigued…? Heh-heh-heh…
Then, Rachel’s schoolfriend Madison suggests to the two budding Werner Herzogs that they make a film for Rachel. When I first saw a trailer for this film months ago, I thought that they were working up to calling this movie ‘A FILM FOR RACHEL,’ which would have been a lovely sweet title. But no, they had to give the film its much worse title, the one you see currently heading this review.
Anyway, Greg struggles to find exactly the right things to put in Rachel’s personalised film and he’s flunking badly in school due to all the time he spends with her. In the meantime, he and poor Rachel have a massive falling-out about the fact that Rachel has decided to discontinue her cancer treatment and let nature take its course. Greg is gutted. Has Rachel just given up on life…? And is that the Rachel he’s come to know and love? (As a friend, mind you, only as a friend. There ain’t no romance in this film…!)
God forgive me but I didn’t like Rachel. She’s just such a terrible drip. (Yes, yes, I know she’s got cancer!) And I was a bit annoyed about what she did to those books, the scissor-happy madwoman, haha. I wanted to like Earl because he seemed funny and smart but he just mumbled so much I honestly couldn’t understand a gosh-darned word he was saying. I liked Greg, though. I wasn’t crazy about Rachel’s cougar lush of a single mom, although I was sorry for her troubles. I would have liked to have seen more of Scott Mayhew, the school goth. He seemed funny and I loved his cool goggles.
I cried buckets at the ending. No, that’s not a spoiler, I would have cried either way. It’s a sweet, touching ending. Hey, it’s a sweet, touching film. It’s not CITIZEN KANE, maybe, but not every movie can be CITIZEN KANE. Which is just as well. There’s only one CITIZEN KANE.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY