Yesterday Fox Searchlight opened Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a big hit at last January’s Sundance Film Festival. Pic costars the dour-faced Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, Ronald Cyler II, Jon Bernthal and the proverbially beefy, beer-gutty Nick Offerman. Reactions of any kind? Is it strictly a 20something-and-younger deal or is it reachier than that? What did the room feel like as people were leaving?
My initial reaction: “There’s something about dying way too young from some cruel force or circumstance (cancer, car crash, suicide, a Hunger Game) that just floors teen and 20something audiences, and to some extent authors and filmmakers. I don’t know how many YA novels have used this plot element, but movie-wise we’ve had If I Stay and The Fault In Our Stars…what else? Cancer-wise you could go all the way back to Arthur Hiller and Eric Segal‘s crushingly maudlin Love Story.
“And now we have Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Lukemia, to be specific. But this time the material is finagled in a much hipper, somewhat dryer, less maudlin, Wes Anderson-like form, and it’s not half bad. It’s definitely the smartest and coolest and arty-doodliest film about a cancer-afflicted teen that I’ve ever seen.” — from 1.28.15 review called “Eternity’s Embrace.”
“Much of the crowd seemed to be moved; I was a bit more circumspect. At times I felt the film was behaving in an almost oppressively sensitive fashion. But it doesn’t quite. At times I felt it was too much in love with the main character’s (i.e., Greg Gaines) sensitivity and the way his heart is slowly cracking as a pretty girl named Rachel, with whom he’s fallen in love, slowly succumbs. But most of the time it holds back just enough.
“The youngish Gomez-Rejon is a gifted and inventive filmmaker who prays at the church of Criterion — he has a deep and abiding worship of movie lore — and he weaves his hip-film-nerd sensibility into Jesse Andrews‘ screenplay (based on his 2013 novel of the same name). I’m not sure I want to see this film again because on some level it almost felt like a chore. It’s not a putdown to state that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight, 6.12) is what it is. And for quite a few people, that’s an agreeable proposition.”