Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Review

me and earl and the dying girl poster

I was handed the novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl on a Sunday afternoon. By Sunday night, I was halfway into it. I could not put the book down. I took a nap while reading the book, and upon waking up from the nap, instead of doing my usual – namely napping some more, I reached for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl so that I could keep reading it. If it wasn’t for my job getting in the way, I would have had the book finished by Monday. Instead, I completed it on Wednesday.  I then immediately wanted to see the movie.

me and earl book cover

If you are a film student, have ever been a film student or just have a passing interest in film making, I think that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will speak to you. A major part of the story is about two friends trying to make movies that don’t suck. In the book, the suck factor is definitely there, but in the movie, it seems that the suckiness of their projects is all in their heads. The biggest change from book to movie may be the quality of Greg and Earl’s movies. In the books, they’re legitimately bad. In the movie, they’re legitimately good, just with the punniest names ever (another good thing in my opinion). Someone told me that an entire second team created these 40-something shorts at the same time that the main movie was being shot. It’s amazing how well the movies come together. I loved them so much. I hope that when the DVD of the movie is released, we’ll have a special feature that shows us extended versions of all of these snippets. They were fantastic.

sockwork orange

Which brings me back to why I think this book and movie would be enjoyed by current and former film students. Greg and Earl suffer for their art, both from their peers not getting it, and from their own self-doubts. This is the kind of self-doubt that plagues all creative types.

earl and greg

I think a big reason why the movie works so well is that the original writer of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews, also wrote the screenplay. The movie makes a few changes from the book. Some of them are great, like the introduction of Ill Phil, who may be my favorite ridiculous character of 2015. Some of the changes are baffling, like the changing of the name of the fictitious high school in the novel to the real life Shenley High, while also changing the name of the real life University of Pittsburgh in the novel to the fake Pittsburgh State for the movie. Why change one school to a real name while changing the other to a fake name? One interesting change was the changing the look of Rachel with casting of Olivia Cooke in the role of the titular dying girl. In the book, Rachel is a Plain Jane type, but in the movie, she has a hipster-cool look to her.  It was little weird that an actress was cast for Rachel who was just as pretty as the one cast for that of the school hottie who is supposed to be so good looking that she-might-be-dating-a-Pittsburgh-Steeler, Madison. Not to say that the actress who plays Madison, Katherine C. Hughes, isn’t good looking. They just really Hermionied up Rachel for the movie. And Madison looks really young, like “Hey Pittsburgh Steeler, why are you dating this child?” young.

Rachel (left) and Madison (right)

Rachel (left) and Madison (right)

Nick Offerman is perfect as Earl’s dad. He’s not in the movie much, but he steals the scenes he’s in.

nick offerman cat

The city of Pittsburgh has a big place in my heart, so it was great seeing many familiar Pittsburgh sites while watching the movie. Of note, I almost leaped out of my seat when I realized Greg and Earl were shopping at Copacetic Comics, a great indie comic book store in Pittsburgh, and even more excited when the next time they were shown shopping at Copacetic, Bill from Copacetic was the one behind the counter. It’s little details like that that matter a lot. I wonder if Jesse Andrews is an Copacetic regular.

copacetic comics

One great improvement to the movie over the book was the character of Rachel. Andrews does a great job in the screenplay of going deeper with Rachel than he did in the novel. She’s more a fully developed individual here than she is in the book. In the book, she just exists almost as a plot device, but in the movie, she’s given form and feeling, and even her own sense of style.

rachel me and earl and the dying girl

Both the book and the movie have me wanting to see Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and I’m guessing by the end of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, you will too. When was the last time any piece of fiction made you feel that way about a Werner Herzog movie?

aguirre poster