Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Happy Comic-Con week, readers! Thuy and I are in San Diego for SDCC as usual. If you aren't, we are sorry, but also, here is what you might conceivably have available to do this week in your area (well, in most areas). If you go out to a movie theater this weekend, we hope you will go and see Me and Earl and The Dying Girl.

I've seen it twice now and am going a third time--can you tell that I love it?

Full disclosure: through a mutual friend, I know Jesse Andrews and have been lucky enough to host him twice at author events in Los Angeles, once for Barnes & Noble at The Americana, and once for the inaugural Pasadena Teen Book Festival (now Pasadena Loves YA). I've hugged him in a library parking lot. I've read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 4 times, and laughed and cried through each re-read. I've sat on the sofa listening to my husband laugh out loud while reading the book, and shot him "I told you so" looks across the living room. So I knew going into the film that I might be a little biased.

YA Rising Stars with Jesse Andrews, Ann Stampler, Lissa Price, and Allen Zadoff at Barnes & Noble at The Americana in Glendale, CA; photo by Katie Ferguson

YA Rising Stars with Jesse Andrews, Ann Stampler, Lissa Price, and Allen Zadoff at Barnes & Noble at The Americana in Glendale, CA; photo by Katie Ferguson

The novel, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, follows Greg Gaines (played in the film version by Beautiful Creatures's Thomas Mann) over the course of his senior year of high school as he befriends a classmate with leukemia (Rachel Kushner, played by Bates Motel's Olivia Cooke). His best friend Earl (played by the highly entertaining RJ Cyler) with whom Greg has been making homages to their favorite films since they were in kindergarten is an unlikely source of wisdom and truth. Along with some kooky parents, played by Connie Britton (Nashville), Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation), Molly Shannon (SNL), a hardcore history teacher (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead), Greg and sometimes Earl try to befriend and entertain Rachel as she undergoes chemotherapy.

I know this all sounds horrible and sad, and not like a fun escapist summer flick, but I promise, though parts of the film are quite sad, much of it is as laugh-out-loud hilarious as the book. It's quirky and wonderful, occasionally crass, but frequently ebullient.

What I expected from the film was this:

  • an adaptation of a book about a pair of teens who make their own, inspired-by-cult-cinema, off-the-wall-silly home movies
  • a touching but realistic story about illness, death, and grief
  • stellar performances by little-known young actors bookended by more name-recognizable actors

Which I got.

What I didn't expect was this:

  • Fabulous sets and a weird hankering to visit Pittsburgh 
  • Hilarious little stop-motion short films
  • Between 2 to 4 floods of tears (I was expecting just one)
  • Brian. Eno. Soundtrack.

That Jesse Andrews was able to deliver a great screenplay without a traditional screenwriting background was impressive enough, but that TV director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was able to pull off such a well-done feature-length movie, and filmed in a little under a month, was even more than I had hoped for. As a fan of the existing work, what you don't want is a director who loses the message of the novel in the endeavor to make a bankable movie using just a skeleton of the book. What Gomez-Rejon managed to do was connect with the heart of the book and translate those emotions--hilarity, confusion, and sadness--into the language of the cinephile. 

Fantastic casting didn't hurt a bit.

Jesse Andrews at Pasadena Teen Book Festival 2014, photo by Katie Ferguson

Jesse Andrews at Pasadena Teen Book Festival 2014, photo by Katie Ferguson

Oh, and at some point you'll hear a voiceover by Hugh Jackman. Yes, it's the real Hugh Jackman, not an impersonator. Unless that impersonator looks exactly like him and has control of his Instagram:

In short, go see it, you won't be disappointed! And if you check the #MeandEarl hashtag on Twitter, in addition to nice things people are saying about the movie (and by people I mean people with last names like Scorsese and Chbosky) you can find lots of official giveaways going on for clever movie-tie-in swag. I'm a little sad they didn't ask me to give one away! But that's ok, I bought 2 of the Hot Topic movie-tie-in shirts and am contemplating a third. (Because senior year did destroy my life.)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is in theaters now.