By Megan Bianco
Since the beginning of the year, movie insiders and fans have been trying to guess what will be the big, coming-of-age indie breakthrough of 2015: “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” or “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.”
While we still have another two months until “Teenage Girl” debuts theatrically, “Me and Earl” finally arrives to art house theaters after a huge hit run through the spring festival circuit. Though it’s become natural to compare artsy teen movies to “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004) and “Juno” (2007), Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film adaptation of Jesse Andrews’ novel is actually more along the lines of “Garden State” (2004) and “(500 Days) of Summer” (2009).
During his senior year of high school, self-imposed loner Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) decides to spend his last year as he has the previous three years: aloof and hidden from the rest of the world. He’s not even going to apply for college. The only commitment in his life is remaking classic films as amateur home movies with his best friend Earl (R.J. Cyler). When his eccentric and bohemian parents (Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) push him to start socializing with classmate Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke), who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, his life takes a sudden turn.
Molly Shannon co-stars as Rachel’s mom and Katherine Hughes plays Greg’s school crush. “Me and Earl” takes some cues from “Annie Hall” (1977) and “500 Days” by including sequences with animation and extra special effects for a traditional, non-action theme. Gomez-Rejon has assembled all the ingredients for a cute, fun flick, but something is always holding it back from being stellar.
Mann, Cyler and Cooke are remarkable presences, especially the latter two, who are rather talented newcomers. But Andrews’ dialogue and the persona traits he’s given his characters sound and look almost like a cliche of quaint hipsterisms from a decade ago, to the point where you start to wonder if the director and author-turned-screenwriter purposely made everything a dated trope.
Greg is supposed to be a cool, knowledgeable film fan (as can be seen by the home movies, DVDs and “Mean Streets” and “The 400 Blows” posters on his wall), but is also supposed to be a self-deprecating loner with no interest for other people because he thinks he’s a failure. The internal monologues and fantasy visions get tiring after awhile. The most moving and touching scenes in the film are actually between Greg and Rachel, where hardly any dialogue is used.
“Me and Earl” isn’t exactly bad, in fact the aesthetics are beautiful, but those who aren’t teenagers will probably feel déjà vu.
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