Follow TV Tropes


Film / Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Go To
The other teenage cancer movie.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
— The opening line Greg decides not to go with

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a 2012 novel written by Jesse Andrews. It received a 2015 film adaptation directed by Alonso Gómez-Rejón.

Greg Gaines is a self-loathing and introverted high school senior who makes low-budget parodies of classic films with his friend (whom he refers to as his "co-worker") Earl. When Rachel Kushner—a girl at his school whom he hasn't talked to in years—is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg's mother forces him to spend time with her. Although their hangouts are awkward at first, it inevitably turns into a real friendship. As Rachel's health worsens, Greg and Earl are coaxed by their expecting school to make Rachel one of their no-budget parodies that she's come to enjoy so much.

The film features Thomas Mann as Greg, RJ Cyler as Earl, and Olivia Cooke as Rachel. It also features Nick Offerman and Connie Britton as Greg's parents, Molly Shannon as Rachel's mom, and Jon Bernthal as Mr. McCarthy.

After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015, Fox Searchlight acquired it for $12 million, making it the biggest buy in Sundance history. Although released around the same time as a certain other movie involving teenagers with cancer, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl carries a more flexible yet still snide tone, and its captivating lead trio primarily focuses on the friendship aspect of their relationship.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    The Movie 
  • Accidental Unfortunate Gesture: Greg makes a fist bump gesture from afar which Rachel mistakes for a Black Power salute.
  • Acid Pool: A combination of this and Shark Pool is mentioned by Greg in the opening scene as an example of what "worst of times" could mean.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The main trio have a few notable differences in appearance than the book describes. Greg describes himself as slightly overweight with glasses and chronic allergic rhinitis; both medical conditions do not make it into the film. Also Earl, while appearing youthful as described in the book, is a lot taller in the movie. Finally, Rachel is described as having buckteeth and fits of snorting in place of laughter. However, with Greg being a questionable narrator, some of these flaws may have been exaggerated.
  • Adapted Out: Greg's little sisters, Gretchen and Grace, do not appear in the film at all.
  • The Alcoholic: Rachel's mother is completely drunk in all but one of her appearances, probably as a way to cope with her grief.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Although it was explicitly stated in the book, the movie remains ambiguous about whether or not the Gaines family is Jewish.
  • Answer Cut: Happens during a conversation at the school cafeteria.
    Some girl: You're befriending her to feel good about yourself.
    Greg: No, I'm not. Who even does that?
    (Cue Madison entering the scene from behind)
  • Arc Symbol:
    • Pillows for Greg and Rachel, particularly the sexy purple one.
    • Squirrels concerning Rachel. She and her father used to count them on the streets, and after she dies, Greg discovers numerous tiny drawings of them around the tree wallpaper in her room.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: A rare female example. Rachel mentions how she and her estranged father used to walk around the block counting squirrels because they had nothing else to talk about whenever they spent time together.
  • Bait-and-Switch: On the night of the prom, we are lead to believe Greg is going to pick up Madison; instead his limo stops in front of the hospital.
  • Baldness Means Sickness: Rachel goes bald towards the end due to her cancer treatment.
  • Book Safe: Rachel creates them as a pastime.
  • The Cameo: Hugh Jackman plays a poster of Wolverine that chastises Greg for being insensitive about death around Rachel.
  • Comforting Comforter: During one of his visits to the hospital, Greg pulls up Rachel's bedsheets for her after she's fallen asleep.
  • Comical Overreacting: When his mother initially pesters him about going to see Rachel, Greg starts squirm-crawling his way towards his bedroom before shutting the door in her face.
  • Daydream Surprise: Twice does a scene between Greg and Rachel turn out to have been a figment of Greg's imagination.
  • Dead Man Writing: Rachel's letter to Greg that she voices out post mortem in the last scene.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The heartbreaking scene where Rachel informs Greg that she's decided to stop treatment.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: There is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene early on in the school corridor where Greg passes a group of girtalking about a test. Turns out, one of the girls is Rachel, who has just recieved her cancer test results.
  • E = MC Hammer: At one point, Greg is seen sitting in class during a test with lots of formulas written on the blackboards at both ends of the classroom.
  • The Film of the Book: Obviously.
  • Heroic BSoD: Greg isn't exactly a hero, but his blank stare after Rachel goes into cardiac arrest in front of him and dies definitely counts.
  • High-School Dance: There's a prom. Justified as all of the main characters are seniors in high school.
  • Huddle Shot: Used early on for a shot where Greg, his parents, and their cat join in a group hug.
  • Imagine Spot: Whenever Madison touches Greg, the scene cuts to a Stop Motion animation depicting Madison as a giant elk trampling on poor Greg.
  • Large Ham: Ill Phil, who stands in front of the school and loudly spouts rhymes.
    • Matt Bennet is clearly enjoying himself as Scott Mayhew.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Greg outright accuses Madison of being one of these due to the way she touches Greg every time she talks to him.
  • Mushroom Samba: Under the influence of the pot cookies, Greg looks around and notices a pig and a panda bear across the street.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Greg has a falling-out with both Rachel and Earl in the third act.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Ill Phil, the high school's cornrow-sporting amateur rapper/drug dealer, is as white as mayonnaise.
  • Shout-Out: Greg and Earl's 40+ parody films yielded its own page.
  • Silence Is Golden: One of the most memorable scenes in the movie and arguably the saddest considering what follows includes Greg and Rachel watching the completed film in the hospital with little to no dialogue and no sound except the melancholy soundtrack.
  • Sleep Cute: At one point, Greg lets a chemotherapy-weakened Rachel sleep on his arm while they watch one of his films. Too bad it's just an Imagine Spot.
  • Wimp Fight: Greg and Ill Phil's... is that even considered a fight?

    The Book 
  • Achilles in His Tent: Greg becomes a recluse and even stops going to school after the film he and Earl made for Rachel is shown at a pep assembly and he can't escape the negative attention.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parent: How embarrassing is Greg's mother, you ask? She convinces the school principal to show the entire school the film Greg and Earl made together without telling Greg, resulting in him receiving extreme flak for the rest of his senior year.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Gretchen, whose main interests are described by Greg as yelling at their mother and not eating whatever's for dinner.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Greg and Earl both drift into this territory, Greg mostly in his narration and Earl whenever he's pissed. The "The Reason You Suck" Speech given by the latter to the former certainly fits.
    Earl: God damn I'm sick and fucking tired a watchin you treat this girl like she some kind of, some kinda burden, when she the closest thing you fucking have to a motherfucking friend and she about to die on top of that. You know that, right? You dumb motherfucker. She home now cuz she about to die. That girl lyin there on her goddamn deathbed and you come to my house all whinin and cryin and shit about some irrelevant bullshit. I want... to kick your ass. You hear me? I want... to beat the fuck out of you right now.
  • Creator Career Self-Deprecation: Greg narrates the line "this is why fiction sucks."
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: By the end of the book, Madison has started dating the "gothy dork" Allan McCormick.

  • Alliterative Name: Greg Gaines.
  • Big Brother Bully: Anytime a fight breaks out in Earl's household, anyone is fair game, including Greg. While in the film Greg swears Earl's older brother will get their dog to eat him one day, it's Brandon, Earl's younger brother, who causes Greg to break his arm in the book.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Two different versions for the film and movie.
    • In the movie, Rachel dies but Earl and Greg make up, and Greg gets another chance at getting into college because of the letter Rachel wrote.
    • In the book, Rachel dies and Greg's admission to Pitt is revoked, but by the book's epilogue Greg is happier with himself than ever before and thinks he'll go to film school not just for Rachel, but for himself.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Though it's much more prominent in the book, where Greg can't even mention Madison without acknowledging her boobs.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Greg's parents walk in on him at one point while he's watching a suggestive video and clearly about to get off. In the book, it's only his mom, but it's thrice as embarrassing, mostly because it leads to a minor sermon from Mrs. Gaines about the beauty of natural breasts.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. McCarthy, their social studies teacher.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Though the movie leaves Greg and Madison's relationship ambiguous, she's dating someone else by the end of the book, and of course Rachel, whom Greg doesn't have any romantic feelings for anyway, dies by the end, too.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rachel and Earl, including the latter's stepdad.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Greg and Earl eat lunch alone together in Mr. McCarthy's office. In the movie, Greg is seen eating lunch entirely by himself after his row with Earl.
  • Foreign Queasine: Greg's house is stocked full of this, courtesy of his father.
    Earl: Imma eat your squid.
  • Hidden Depths: Greg continues to find out new things about Rachel even after she dies. Foreshadowed by his teacher noting the same thing happening to him after his dad died in the movie.
  • How We Got Here: Greg is writing the story to send to Pittsburgh State University.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Greg and Earl accidentally end up high, thinking that Mr. McCarthy's soup was laced with drugs. It wasn't; it's Earl's cookies that are laced with pot, courtesy of his brother's girlfriend.
  • The Lancer: Earl. Unlike Greg, he doesn't bother cultivating any friendliness with the rest of the students and seems perfectly fine being a loner. He's also more likely to speak his mind than Greg is.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Most of the school assumes Greg and Rachel are dating once they start hanging out more.
  • Mr. Imagination: Greg is a much more cynical take on the trope, while Earl also qualifies.
  • Multi-Character Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • The Not-Love Interest: Greg even notes the fact that if it were a different kind of story, there would've been more romantic tropes instead of a strong friendship. Nevertheless, Greg's growing friendship with Rachel is one of the main focuses.
  • Parental Abandonment: Earl's parents are noticeably absent in the movie. The book explains that his stepfather is in prison and his mother secludes herself through online chat rooms on the third floor of their house.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. McCarthy, who's genuinely concerned about Greg's mental well-being and tries talking him through it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Earl gives one to Greg when the latter angrily tries to confront the former about telling Rachel about the film they're supposed to be making for her. In the movie, it's portrayed as a Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure. In the book, however, it's composed half of swears and just kinda brushed off afterwards.
  • Self-Deprecation: A huge part of Greg's arc is how insecure he feels about himself. He frequently refers to his own face as "a groundhog face" in the movie. In the book, he explicitly states that he has a really hard time accepting compliments, even calling it Excessive Modesty Hour.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Yes, Rachel does die. Yes, Greg lied about her getting better at the end.
  • Spoiler Title: Double-subverted. The movie title certainly points to a Downer Ending but then along comes Greg reassuring the audience that Rachel is going to live. But this is not what happens.
  • Token Trio: Greg, Earl, and Rachel.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Throughout the course of the movie, Greg states several times that Rachel isn't going to die and it isn't a story about death. He's lying. In the book, every event is told from Greg's perspective and is subject to his own biased Self-Deprecation.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Greg's dad in both the movie and the book. He hangs around the house in a kimono eating cuttlefish and talking to his cat compared to Greg, who is slightly quirky at most. A more serious example in the movie is Rachel's mom, who starts drinking heavily after her daughter is diagnosed with leukemia, and Rachel, who takes it more calmly.
  • World of Pun: All of Greg and Earl's parody movies have a Pun-Based Title of the one they're based off of. "It's a Punderful Life" is a prime example.

Alternative Title(s): Me And Earl And The Dying Girl