ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL Review
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rayon
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Teen Movie
Within the Sundance circuit sub-genre of indie teen dramas, we see little cinematic experimentation. Mostly just good performances and maybe a nifty gimmick here or there, all encompassed by a narrative tackling teen angst and existential malaise in 21st century suburbia.
What’s fantastic about ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is that it dares to be visually expressive in a genre that more often than not plays its cards very safe. As a result, this latest Sundance favorite feels like more than another re-skin of recent indie successes BOYHOOD, THE SPECTACULAR NOW or PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.
Although at least this one has diversity
The three fantastic lead performers, who never try to steal the show from one another, weave the film into a perfect cohesive whole. The film is built around two beautifully hilarious first and second acts, only to destroy you with its third. Unfortunately, the third act begins walking on familiar terrain, but is thankfully never sappy or preachy.
The comedy is absolutely spot-on for the entire runtime of the film, and times itself effectively so that the audience is consistently flip-flopping between laughter and tears. Although the comedy often feels like it results in scenes that consist of teen quirks for the sake of teen quirks, the film is still radically entertaining. However, on certain occasions, the script feels like someone wrote a beat-sheet to a fantastic movie, and someone else tried to figure out where to add in jokes, causing the narrative to occasionally stumble.
Like this whole popsicle thing
Where ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL can lose the interest of some audience members is its film buff sub-plot. Naturally, to any filmmaker – or Sundance attendee – these references are quirky and entertaining. However, having said that, these film references are directly attached to the protagonists, and feel a little over the top. Although it’s a fun idea to consider two high school boys who go laser-disc shopping and watch THE 400 BLOWS in their spare time, it’s important to realize that this narrative element also detracts from what is mostly a storyline based in universality and complete accessibility.
To be fair, this is pretty much Crossfader headquarters when Death Grips releases anything
The running theme of “finding yourself” is a beautiful concept and well executed, and it could have been done without the film buff agenda, but nevertheless, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is one of the most visually compelling and candid Sundance pictures in recent memory.