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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an irreverent, heartfelt, thoughtful, and very funny dramedy based on the same-named book by Jesse Andrews. You know from the title that a teen girl is dying (cancer), so it's no spoiler to say that although the movie is quite humorous and sarcastic, it also explores intense subject matter, including post-high school boredom/lack of direction, fear of intimacy, and mortality. Expect some swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k"), cigarette and pot smoking by teens, and drinking -- but ultimately the take-away is that illness can ravage the body but not the soul, and friendship can conquer it.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Amazing, fantastic, heart breaking drama is funny but extremely sad and is racy with tons of strong language.
What's the story?
High school student Greg (Thomas Mann) and his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) like to make parodies of famous movies (think Monorash instead of Rashomon) and have more than 40 of them under their belts. Despite knowing Earl forever, Greg fancies himself a lone wolf who navigates the thicket of high school social life by getting along with everyone and never letting anyone really get to know him. No attachment, no disappointment -- or so he thinks. Meanwhile, the pressure of deciding about college (and the rest of his life) calls. When his mother (Connie Britton) discovers that Greg's classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), has been diagnosed with leukemia, she insists that Greg spend time with her to help her through her ordeal. But this breaks Greg's golden rule not to get involved with anyone.
Is it any good?
The beauty of ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL -- and it truly is a beautiful film, both visually and emotionally -- is that it doesn't pander to anyone. Not to high schoolers, not to parents (though their depiction does border a bit on caricature), and not to those suffering from cancer (who are rendered here in all their complexity). It doesn't presuppose that teens are too predictable and stereotypical to appreciate the complicated; it doesn't assume that comedy shouldn't be tinged with deep sadness, and vice versa. It feels authentic. Greg feels authentic; as depicted by Mann, he is, in many ways, both like all teenagers and simultaneously unlike any we've met before. Ditto Earl and, to a lesser extent, Rachel. In fact, the entire cast is, as kids these days are apt to say, "perf," including Nick Offerman in the role of Greg's spacey sociology professor dad.
Which is all to say that Earl is fantastic. No wonder it was a hit and won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Is it totally quibble-free? No; the first half moves a little too deliberately and a little self-consciously, but the payoff of the second half -- particularly the last third -- is so great that any issues of twee-ness (we don't really need those title cards) can be forgiven. What we have here is an honest attempt to tell an honest story of friendship, loss, and survival in a teen movie. How many films in this genre can say they've done that?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' friendships. What brings them together? What's the true measure of a real friendship? Can you think of other movies that portray powerful friend relationships?
Is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl's depiction of high school social life realistic? How is it similar to, or different from, other movies that have covered the same ground?
If you've read the book it's based on, is this is a successful adaptation? What changes did the filmmakers make, and you do you understand why they made them? What parts of the movie captured the book best, and what parts of the book did you miss not seeing in the movie?
- In theaters: June 12, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2015
- Cast: Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton
- Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, High School
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements
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