From out of the shadow

Jesse An­drews’ ‘Me and Earl’ gets a warm em­brace

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - By Glenn Whipp glenn.whipp@la­times.com

Three years ago, Jesse An­drews wrote a book about a self-aware, out­cast teenage boy who changed a can­cer-stricken girl’s life. That book was not ti­tled “The Fault in Our Stars,” though it did have the mis­for­tune to be pub­lished at roughly the same time as John Green’s young adult jug­ger­naut, lead­ing some to be­lieve that An­drews’ work, “Me and Earl and the Dy­ing Girl,” was a re­ac­tion or cor­rec­tive to Green’s book.

“It be­came clear that no one would be able to write about my book with­out writ­ing about that other book,” An­drews said from his Bos­ton home. “Which I felt am­biva­lent about, as any­one would.”

Let’s be clear, though. He’s not that conf licted. That’s be­cause the movie ver­sion of “Me and Earl,” which An­drews also wrote, de­buted in Jan­uary at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val to a strong mix of cheers and tears, win­ning the fes­ti­val’s grand jury prize and au­di­ence awards. The en­thu­si­asm con­tin­ued af­ter the stand­ing ova­tion ended, with Fox Searchlight pony­ing up a re­ported $12 mil­lion — a Sun­dance record — for the film, which opens Fri­day.

Though “Me and Earl” re­volves around a ter­mi­nal ill­ness, Greg, the young man at its cen­ter, couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from “Stars’” (overly?) de­voted boyfriend, Au­gus­tus Wa­ters. No flaw­less flirt, Greg (Thomas Mann) vis­its high school class­mate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) only be­cause his mom forces the is­sue.

At school, he tries to fit in with all the cliques, if only be­cause f lit­ting among them ren­ders ev­ery re­la­tion­ship su­per­fi­cial. He can’t even ac­knowl­edge that his friend­ship with Earl (RJ Cyler) means any­thing more than a shared love for art-house movies, which the two re­make with a de­cid­edly ado­les­cent boy f la­vor. (Among the ti­tles in their 42-film oeu­vre: “Eyes Wide Butt,” “My Din­ner With An­dre the Gi­ant” and “Pooping Tom.”)

“I felt like I hadn’t seen a char­ac­ter like Greg in teen fic­tion, some­one who was very hon­est, prob­a­bly too much so,” says An­drews, 32. “He has a lit­tle bit of Larry David in him. He lacks a fil­ter.”

The movie Greg grows more as a per­son than the char­ac­ter does in the book, mostly be­cause Book Greg pos­sesses an al­most ab­ject fear of les­son learn­ing. Nei­ther Greg bears much re­sem­blance to An­drews’ own ado­les­cent self, out­side of the Pitts­burgh set­ting (the movie used his child­hood home, where his par­ents still live) and a pen­chant for ju­ve­nile hu­mor. (An­drews will hap­pily tick off the list of re­makes that didn’t make it into the movie, in­clud­ing “Throwup,” which is ba­si­cally Michelan­gelo An­to­nioni’s ex­is­ten­tial master­piece “Blowup” — “ex­cept about barf­ing.”)

As “Me and Earl” stands as his de­but as both a nov­el­ist and a screen­writer, An­drews knows he has a hard act to fol­low. His par­ents joined him at Sun­dance and, af­ter re­turn­ing home to Pitts­burgh, they re­ported find­ing them­selves drift­ing around the house, hear­ing the movie’s Brian Eno score play­ing in their heads.

“It might not ever get bet­ter than that,” An­drews says, laugh­ing. “Def­i­nitely not more sur­real.”

Katie Falken­berg Los An­ge­les Times

JESSE AN­DREWS ad­mits it both­ered him when many peo­ple thought his novel sprang from “The Fault in Our Stars.” The film “Me and Earl” was well re­ceived at Sun­dance and opens in the­aters Fri­day.

Anne Marie Fox Fox Searchlight

RJ CYLER, left, stars as Earl and Thomas Mann is Greg in “Me and Earl and the Dy­ing Girl.” “I felt like I hadn’t seen a char­ac­ter like Greg in teen fic­tion, some­one who was very hon­est,” An­drews says.

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