me&earl&thedyinggirl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) – BALINALE Review

“I have no idea how to tell this story,” Greg (Thomas Mann) opens the story in such fashion; to some points, he’s being honest. In fact, this 2015 Sundance darling (winner of Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award) is not as sad as its titular introduction; instead of being tear-jerking, alas, it’s full of clever laugh and spazzing moodbooster. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a celebration of life, death, and friendship—but more than that, it’s a celebration of being youth and quirky.

Greg is an awkward and self-loathing senior student whose school-years were spent to play politics beyond school’s cliques in order to look “invisible.” From her mother, he learns that his friend, whom he never have spoken to since childhood, Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is dying of leukemia. Her mother forces him to, once again, befriend Rachel through his desperate time which Greg reluctantly does. 

Surprisingly, they’re bonding to each other’s quirkiness pretty well as they plan to regularly see each other. Greg, then, introduces Rachel not to his friend but rather his long-time co-worker, Earl (RJ Cycler), with whom he spoofs classic movies into some D.I.Y. movies titled A Sockwork Orange, The Seven Seals, Death in Tennis, et al (Read the long list of films spoofed by Greg and Earl), since they’re kids. Well, as a narrator, Greg keeps being an unreliable one, but he’s certain on one thing: that this will not be a sappy lost story. But there’s one truer thing, time keeps ticking off to testify this newly-bound friendship between those three guys.

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Adapted from Jesse Andrew’s novel of the same time (which he himself transfers into screenplay), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is self-aware of its quirkiness—right from the start to its meditating ending. Surprisingly, it all works (as a glorified quirky combination)—from the acting, the (500) Days of Summer style storyline, the color palette, the cinematography (by Chung Chung-hoon, Park Chan-wook’s regular), and atmospheric score from Brian Eno and Nico Muhly. If I’m being honest, it’s like a fan-service homage to the modern day artsy-hipster viewers—in a way that, usually, Wes Anderson does—that works sympathetically.

Opposed to its desperate title, the first act is surprisingly full of clever jokes and homages—that always gets me excited. Greg’s not a very dull boy; he’s enticing in some ways and Rachel’s not as depressing as her titular title. As the third piece of puzzle—though the name comes second, Earl is a very complicated character with depths just like the other. Secondary characters like Greg’s parents or Rachel’s and Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal), their History teacher are all quirky, but they’re not plain. They’re all likeable, and most importantly, they give heart to this warm story.

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While the first act is being very colorful and vibrant, the second and third act pay more respect to the dying girl, which cannot be ignored in the end. The story’s not trying to humiliate the girl in any way, but it gives more depth to the friendship (or perhaps, romance) that gets more intimate with sympathy. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl does not lose its charm here, instead it goes deeper to a more contemplative state still with whimsical pictures.

While there are three characters mentioned in the title, this film mostly follows Greg as the main helmer and that, sometimes, is a let-down. At some points, Earl is going MIA and at other points, Rachel is. However, it doesn’t mean that Greg’s part’s the most tedious—only it overshadows the others.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl looks like an indie crowdpleaser that goes style-over-substance in the beginning, moreover with its self-awareness. However, as it goes by, it gives depth to the substance and seals it with the contemplative third-act—skyrocketed by the charming performance from the “Me”, Earl, and the Dying Girl.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

star3.5me&earl&thedyinggirl

Drama, Comedy Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon Written by: Jesse Andrews Starred by: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cycler, Jon Bernthal Runtime: 105 mins Rated PG – 13 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements

IMDb | Official Site


“I have no idea how to tell this story,” ungkap Greg (Thomas Mann) membuka film ini; dan dia jujur soal itu. Pada dasarnya, film kesayangan Sundance 2015 ini (yang memenangkan Grand Jury Prize dan Audience Award) tidaklah sesedih atau sedepresi judulnya. Alih-alih menjadi film tear-jerking, film ini malah dipenuhi lelucon cerdas dan berbagai macam moodbooster mengejutkan. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl adalah sebuah perayaan akan kehidupan, kematian, dan persahabatan—bukan hanya itu, film ini juga merayakan warna-warni masa muda lengkap dengan quirks-nya.

Cerita Me and Earl and the Dying Girl berpusat pada Greg, seorang pelajar tahun keempat yang menhabiskan masa sekolahnya untuk terlihat “invisible” tanpa harus berafiliasi pada kelompok tertentu. Suatu hari, ibunya memaksanya untuk hang out dengan teman kecilnya, Rachel (Olivia Cooke) yang ternyata mengidap leukemia. Meskipun ragu dan awkward, Greg menyetujui permintaan ibunya meskipun enggan.

Surprisingly, Greg dan Rachel ternyata mudah terkoneksi satu sama lain dan mulai bertemu secara reguler. Greg lalu mengenalkan Rachel pada Earl (RJ Cycler), yang tak pernah diakui sebagai sahabatnya melainkan rekan kerjanya dalam membuat plesetan film-film klasik dengan judul unik a la A Sockwork Orange, The Seven Seals, Death in Tennis, dsb (Lihat daftar film yang di-spoof-kan oleh Greg dan Earl di sini).

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Sebagai narator, Greg memang kadang sulit dipercaya, tapi dia tampil meyakinkan dalam memastikan bahwa Me and Earl and the Dying Girl bukanlah film cengeng. Namun ada satu hal yang lebih pasti yaitu waktu, yang terus bergulir untuk menguji persahabatan ketiganya.

Adaptasi novel Jesse Andrew (yang juga scriptwriternya) ini sangat aware akan ke-quirky-annya. Namun hebatnya, semua elemen malah mengesankan—mulai dari actingnya, storyline-nya yang bergaya (500) Days of Summer, palet warnanya yang cerah, sinematografinya (karya Chung Chung-hoon, sinematografer langganan Park Chan-wook (Oldboy)), dan musiknya yang atmosferik. Sejujurnya, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl adalah sebuah fan-service homage bagi penonton hipster masa kini, namun dengan sajian yang penuh simpati.

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Berlawanan dengan judulnya yang desperate, babak pertama film ini malah sangat kocak. Greg bukanlah tipikal tokoh utama yang membosankan—ia punya karisma yang unik. Sementara Rachel juga tidak se-depressing gelarnya di judul film ini. Selain itu, Earl menjadi pelengkap kepingan puzzle yang pas. Karakte sekunder macam orang tua Greg atau Rachel bahkan guru sejarah, Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) juga punya quirkiness dan tidaklah datar. Para karakternya sangat likeable dan, yang jelas, mereka punya hati.

Babak pertamanya memang penuh warna dan sangat vibrant, tapi babak selanjutnya lebih meditatif lagi—memberi penghormatan yang luar biasa bagi sang ‘dying girl’. Kisahnya sama sekali tidak menggampangkan Rachel, tapi justru makin mengompori persahabatan (dan romansa) yang terjalin dengan simpati. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl tidak pernah kehilangan pesonanya sampai di situ, justru film ini masuk ke sisi kontemplatifnya tanpa meninggalkan sisi whimsical.

Kekurangan film ini justru pada konsistensi. Judulnya memang menampilkan 3 karakter, tapi praktiknya hanya Greg yang disorot setiap saat. Sering kali Earl dan Rachel malah hilang dari storyline.

Meskipun begitu, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl tetaplah sebuah jamuan indie yang awalnya nampak style-over-substance tapi berubah 180 derajat ketika cerita mulai bergulir.


This Me and Earl and the Dying Girl review is written by Paskalis Damar. Review film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ini diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Indonesia oleh Paskalis Damar.

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