Whether you loved or hated Me, Earl and the Dying Girl-- whether you were part of the crowd that was ready to stand up and cheer at the Sundance premiere (after which the film was immediately snagged up after a fierce bidding war) or whether you're one of the more skeptical audience members who have accused the film of being cliché in its depiction of Earl and of its self aware film references-- one thing that you have to admit about Me, Earl and the Dying Girl is that the movie is deeply emotionally moving, both in its humor and its sadness.
It’s not easy to move an audience emotionally, especially when they come to a movie called Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. It’s not easy to actually move them to a point of personal exposure with a film like this, because of the protective wall that the audience is naturally going to put up between themselves and the film.
So I want to talk today about how you get an audience to take down their walls.
In lesser hands, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl is a Lifetime movie. In lesser hands, it's just another movie in a long line of melodramatic tearjerkers: the kind of movie that makes you cry but doesn't really change your life. The kind of movie that makes you cry in a safe way.
Me, Earl and the Dying Girl does not make you cry in a safe way. And the reason for this is that it sucks you into seeing the world through the character's eyes, forcing you to lower your guard and expose your own vulnerability.
The film has actually taken a lot of criticism for this. It's been argued that Rachel (the dying girl from the title) exists for no other reason than to force the main character, Greg, to change. It's been argued that Greg is a total narcissist who is so completely unaware of anybody other than himself in the world.
But I completely disagree. For me, what is wonderful about this movie and what is successful about this movie is exactly the way it pulls you into Greg’s perspective, as narcissistic and self-involved, and downright teenage as it might be.
How does the movie accomplish this? The answer is multifaceted and may surprise you. The most obvious way it does this is by lying to you...