Up until senior year, Greg (Thomas Mann) has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl (Ronald Cyler II), and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel (Olivia Cooke).
Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl make her a movie, and Greg must abandon invisibility and make a stand. (synopsis via Abrams Books)
When you’ve spent a lifetime keeping people at bay, letting someone let in, I mean really closely, intimately, life-alteringly in, can be terrifying in the extreme.
After all, it’s then that you realise this is where the real nitty-gritty, the marrow of life of life takes place; not when you are isolated from the world, watching on like everyone’s in a movie and you’re the sole member of the audience but when you’re emotionally part of the action, an integral player in the plot.
That’s the place that Greg, a young man who has made an art form out of being the one looking on, finds himself when a sense of motherly-instigated social obligation turns into the closest relationship of his short life; ironically he makes films with his best friend Earl – not very good films mind you but films nonetheless – that require him to be an active participant, something he shuns in real life.
And he has no real idea how to handle it till his best friend Earl reminds him that life is to be lived, not simulated from a distance.
Based on the book by Jesse Andrews, which won rave reviews for being “A frequently hysterical confessional [read]” (Kirkus Reviews) and one that “steers clear of tricky resolutions and overt life lessons, favoring incremental understanding and growth” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), the movie has been garnering equally glowing accolades since its well-received premiere at Sundance this year where people had this to say about it:
“… this rousing adaptation of Jesse Andrews’ novel is destined not only to connect with young audiences in a big way, but also to endure as a touchstone for its generation.” (Variety)
“A smart-ass charmer, merciless tearjerker and sincere celebration of teenage creativity, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl got a standing ovation at its Eccles premiere today and deserved it. The tragicomic story of the friendship between a misfit teen, his pal Earl, and — uh, you get the idea — is an illness pic without the guilt-inducing mawkishness or carpe diem platitudes. Film-geek friendly but thoroughly accessible and very funny, it has the makings of a mainstream hit. ” (Hollywood Reporter)
Perhaps the best sense of the kind of real world meets charming and funny vibe that pervades the film comes from Nate Jones at Vulture who had this to say, and I have to say I heartily agree with him, on viewing the newly-released, quirkily funny and serious in turn, trailer:
“Turns out, the movie is an answer to the question, ‘What if Wes Anderson remade The Fault in Our Stars?'”
Given the predilection of author Jesse Andrews, who also penned the screenplay for the movie, for not giving easy answers and letting life do its thing, don’t count on this having your typical Hollywood ending.
Then again, life is full of surprises, so who’s to say it won’t pull something unexpected out of the bag?
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl opens June 12 in USA, and September 11 in UK.