I haven’t felt the urge to get up and walk out of the theater as early as I did watching Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, well, maybe ever. The film gets off to a bad start by setting up Greg’s, the titular Me, worldview of high school in a way that instantly prescribes to all the bullshit social caste systems movies want us to think our education system inherently falls in to. Greg intentionally wants to remain “invisible” by befriending everyone in the school just enough so that they accept his presence, but don’t really care if he is present; because he is a weird loser nobody will understand. Except, Greg isn’t portrayed as the weird, ugly kid he sees himself as, he is a self-centered and unfunny asshole who seems like he would be unbearable to be around. So good thing the film’s about how amazing Greg was for this girl who dies of cancer and so he can actually feel good about himself in the end.
How do we know Greg is so amazing to Rachel, the titular Dying Girl? She writes a letter for him to send to his college (which he doesn’t even want to go to because, “ugh, human contact with people who will never understand me!”) that explains why his grades got so bad Senior year while he came over to hang out and do nothing at her house while she slowly died. Seriously, other than Greg talking about wanting to fuck Rachel’s pillows, the film shows them doing next to nothing and doesn’t convince us in any way shape or form that Greg is; a) a good person, b) not a self-centered asshole, c) helped this girl in any way other than giving her movies to help pass the boredom of being locked away from the world as she slowly dies. I mean, hell, the asshole that is Greg even tells the audience on more than one occasion that Rachel doesn’t die, just so that the film can try to gut punch you even harder when she actually does. What an asshole.
Maybe we would understand how Greg helped Rachel if we got to know anything about her, but we don’t. I mean, we get to know nothing about this girl over the course of the two-hour runtime until the very last scene of the movie. Greg sneaks back into Rachel’s room one last time, a room he has visited nearly 200 times, and, because he is the biggest self-centered asshole possibly ever put on film, he just now notices all these incredibly beautiful and interesting things about Rachel for the first time. The big emotional scene of the movie hinges on the viewer discovering that Greg has learned absolutely nothing about Rachel, someone he has spent every day with for over half a year, and now feels sad about it because he saw all these cool things about her. What? Asshole!
Seriously, all the amazing things we discover about Rachel in that scene just pissed me off more that I had to sit through Greg’s story. Here is a smart and creative individual, Rachel, that was used for no other reason in the film then to make the viewer feel sad or as a springboard for Greg to try to stop being an asshole; yet he is somehow also supposed to be an amazing person that helped Rachel (which we never see). The ending of the film reeks of absolute bullshit.
And Earl, man, Earl is a cool character as well who has no place in Greg’s life whatsoever. These two people would never be friends, or interact, or understand each other in the slightest. Earl and Rachel though, those two had chemistry, if only the script would let Earl stop talking about “titties” and show us some actual depth to the character; like we get to see when the three of them eat popsicles. Maybe then I could get more behind this movie. I would much rather watch a movie about Earl and Rachel; two people who are supposed to love and defend Greg and their amazing friendships with him, but the film never bothers to show us why in the slightest. You can even keep around the hot girl, Madison, whom Greg only has any interest in because he wants to bang her. She seems like a real and likable human being as well, who again, wants to hang around Greg for some weird reason.
The movie should have been Madison and Earl and Rachel. Madison and Rachel seem to have a better friendship than Greg and Rachel do and we only ever see the two of them on-screen together once. All three of these stars, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, and Katherine C. Hughes, do fine work in the film, it’s too bad we didn’t get to see more of them. A cancer drama about two girls dealing with the end of their friendship because one of them is about to die, all while the dying girl finds love in an unlikely source (Earl), sounds incredibly more interesting to me than whiny, self-centered, asshole white teen trashes everyone around him so he can realize how fucking stupid he is. I feel like the film thinks because it has Greg’s acquaintances acknowledge how awful he is that it’s ok for him to be so awful, but it really isn’t.
At least the filmmaking was somewhat interesting. The stop-motion stuff is well executed, and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon shows some directorial promise visually (even if he does a bit too much for no reason a couple of times), but otherwise, I have nothing positive to say about the film.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl should be avoided at all costs. I haven’t seen a film that I disliked this much in a while and I hope that I don’t have to endure anything else as torturous as this anytime soon. No one should.