Directing gives charm to ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’


Kyle Arensdorf

By Kyle Arensdorf

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When “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, chaos ensued.

Some critics likened it to “Juno,” another independent film that went the distance for an Oscar nomination.

Others dubbed it the next “Little Miss Sunshine,” a small drama/comedy that made the long trek from a Sundance premiere to a Best Picture nomination – and won two other Oscars at that.

Even more impressively, both of those films received Best Picture nominations when the field only allowed a maximum of five films.

Since 2010 the field has been stretch to allow up to 10.

By the time Sundance wrapped its weeklong festivities, the hysteria around “Me and Earl” was so widespread it won both of the festival’s top two awards: the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.

But I didn’t see “Juno” in “Me and Earl,” and I didn’t see “Little Miss Sunshine.”

I saw a pretty good film that was slightly over-hyped by the critics at Sundance.

That’s not to say I didn’t love the film. Its rock-solid narrative and the collective performances of its stars certainly made it a tear-jerker.

Thomas Mann plays Greg, an apathetic, intelligent high school senior who somehow seems to be outgrowing his maturity.

Greg makes small films with his best friend – although he won’t admit it – Earl (RJ Cyler) that satirize bona fide classics.

They make “A Sockwork Orange” and “2:48 PM Cowboy,” among others.

The little world Greg and Earl create is turned upside down though when Greg is forced by his mother to hang out with Rachel, a girl in his class who’s been diagnosed with Leukemia.

Despite the dreary subject matter, some charm actually shines through in the film.

In part because of the directing style.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon pans from a wide-angle lens, he shoots opposing eye lines, and he sticks his subjects right in the center of his frames – all major filmmaking “no-no’s.”

His quirky style of directing attempts to break the conventional rules, but he doesn’t do it in such a way that is over-the-top or pretentious like some directors such as Wes Anderson do.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a solid film that hits all the right notes, but lacks any real punch that an independent film needs to be transcendent.