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 Michael Bergeron
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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
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A cursory glance at Me and Earl and the Dying Girl would suggests a teen melodrama not unlike The Fault in Our Stars. Nothing could be further from the truth. MAEATDG is a film that embraces the past and present of film history, all while telling a quirky story about growing up.

The main character, Greg (Thomas Mann, the me of the title), and his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) make parody movies when they aren’t watching classic films during their high school lunch break. Greg’s mom makes him befriend a neighborhood girl, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), of the same age who happens to be dying of leukemia. Playing adults or teachers are co-stars Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, and Jon Bernthal. Bernthal in particular has a juicy role that allows him to be funny and smart, attributes his tough guy persona (Walking Dead, Snitch) never allows in other parts.

While Me and Earl and the Dying Girl does touch on mortality and teens dealing with larger issues than going to the prom there’s also an atmosphere of film maven coolness. You don’t have to be a cineaste to enjoy all the in jokes about cinema that are peppered throughout, but it helps.

For instance, Greg and Earl remake The 400 Blows as The 400 Bros, or instead of Rosemary’s Baby they present Rosemary Baby Carrots. There are a couple of dozen such titles each seemingly cleverer than the last.

Writer/director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon displays worldliness with his directing style. In his 40s, this is his second feature but his name belongs on a list of interesting directors to watch. You might get distracted by events to the point where you forget you’re on the path of a tearjerker.

— Michael Bergeron