I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed watching the movie Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I mean, the depressing truth about what happens in the story is right there in the title. But the movie doesn’t just make you sad, it also makes you laugh and makes you think. So since I liked the movie so much I decided to read the book. As I’ve said before, I think it’s better to do it in this order (movie then book) because then you’re not so focused on all the things they left out of the movie, but instead you’re super interested in all the extra things you learn in the book.
Author Jesse Andrews also wrote the screenplay for the film, which is usually a pretty good indication that the adaptation will be acceptable, even to the book’s biggest fans. Since I watched the movie and read the book so close together, I noticed that a lot of the dialogue was taken word-for-word from the book and used in the film (greg-acil. ha!).
But I’d have to say that some things worked better in the movie than they did in the novel. Like Greg’s narration, for example. It’s much funnier in the movie than in the book. And the scenes detailing Greg’s high-school experience and all the different cliques were a little too long and descriptive in the book. I found them infinitely more interesting in the movie, probably because they took up like half the amount of time.
One thing I really appreciated about the book was how honest Greg is. Sometimes it makes him come across as kind of a jerk, but it is so refreshing to read something that doesn’t try to hard to pull at your heart strings. At one point he says that if Rachel weren’t sick, they probably wouldn’t even be friends. And that if she got better they wouldn’t necessarily be friends either. He says over and over that they didn’t build an intense relationship that will stay with him forever. It’s just a moment in time. No hidden messages beyond that. That just seems so authentically adolescent to me.
I also appreciated that it didn’t turn into a love story, in either the book or the film. It could have. So easily. And it wouldn’t even have been bad if it had. But it didn’t go there, and I think that takes guts for a writer. Because I’m sure someone told him the book would probably sell more copies if it did. “Make it more John Green.” I’m sure someone said that. But because it didn’t turn into a romance, this is a pretty original story.
The end scene where Rachel and Greg are watching the film projected onto the hospital wall was done so well in the movie, it was a very powerful moment and an intense scene. In the book, she doesn’t watch it with Greg and because the reader doesn’t get to experience watching her watch this movie made just for her, it’s just not as impactful.
In the end I think I preferred the movie version. It cut the story down to only its best moments, and being able to see the films that Earl and Greg produce is just better than reading a description of them. Plus, all the actors are great in the movie and it gave the somewhat underdeveloped characters more of a personality. Especially Rachel (played by Olivia Cooke), and her mom (played by Molly Shannon).
According to IMDb, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $12 million dollars at The Sundance Film Festival, which was the biggest buy in Sundance history. That’s pretty impressive. It also won a bunch of awards, which doesn’t really impress me but certainly doesn’t hurt.