The winner of this year’s Sundance Film Festival is one of those films able to start a new trend in independent cinema, attracting the aura of the little cult movie around him and inspiring the birth of similar works.
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is he himself the fruit of a trend. Recycling the old (but gold) formula supported by Tarantino (“Great artists steal, they don’t do homages”), Alfonso Gomez-Rejon fills his first movie of explicit cinephile references, giving life to a genuine act of love towards the seventh art. Placing himself on the path of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and of Juno, of course, the director deploys three characters (based on the Jesse Andrews’ book of the same name) whose love of the past (in Stephen Chbosky’s movie were the vintage vinyls, here the great classics of European cinema) makes them automatically hipster in today’s world.
Joining the rank of films which tend to be more exquisitely romantic than realistic, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl makes cinema and the simple act of storytelling the most powerful force, capable of moving and changing for the better people’s lives. It can be accused of slipping towards predictable and saccharine in the last part (always the most difficult to guess for this particular genre), but the movie has definitely one of the most moving and best shot ending of this subspecies, whose origins we’re wondering if they can still be related to the immortal John Hughes’ Breakfast Club (symbol of teenager’s problems and of high school’s habit of creating dreadful categories), since his 80s purity and simplicity has been replaced with sarcasm and direction virtuosities.
Even if it’s borrowing from whoever (from Wes Anderson’s addiction to title cards, for example) and cheating and playing shamelessly with the public’s feelings, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl actually manages not to resemble to anything, showing it’s an original and personal product with its own backbone. Gomez-Rejon succeeds on telling in a modern and ironical way a formation story. It’s incredible his capacity of defining every element with an unbelievable precision: the speed with which the high school micro society is framed and explained is amazing, since we get to see very little of it. And if the ace in the hole of lots of indie movies often comes from minor characters because strongly characterized (like Juno’s dumb best friend or Napoleon Dynamite’s dumb brother), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has Nick Offerman playing a hippie freak. And that’s enough.
Gomez-Rejon’s first work couldn’t be more fashionable in these hipster days (it has stop-motion moments too!), but his ability to take recurrent styles and themes and bringing them to new life is one of the best we could ask for. It’s not a masterpiece (it’s way too pandered), but it’s really amusing and its three main actors deserve all our attention.
Seriously, RJ Cyler (who plays Earl) should be the number one candidate to be the next “Benedict-Cumberbatch-turning-up-everywhere”.
Written by Camilla Gazzola