Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
The much-loved Sundance smash of the year, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, is the bittersweet coming-of-age film full of pop-culture references and witty, insecure teenagers that everybody’s talking about. Adapted from the novel of the same name, Earl features a few minor differences in narrative from it’s written counterpart, that might – depending on who you are – alter your perspective about the lead character, Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann). The film version is perhaps more emotionally solipsistic than the book, as we dive into the subjective imagination of “Greg-the-filmmaker”, replacing verbal and internal reflection with pastiche-heavy scenes, Sergio Leone soundtracks and Wes Anderson camera movements aplomb. I encountered moments in the film where I would find myself both enjoying and disliking it at equal measures – part of me enjoyed the playfulness of it’s style, but other times I found it on the level of “irritatingly quirky”. Part of me was hugely turned off by how narcissistic and lazy the protagonist character was, but the other part of me saw a validated truth in the character: people like Greg Gaines really do exist, and to my very real frustration, they might never have their third-act change-of-heart, like we hope Greg has by the film’s conclusion. I’m probably getting off-track here – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is still an intriguing, melancholy experience, which is still grounded in real emotions, by a great cast and a beautiful soundtrack by Brian Eno. Who knows, it’s the kind of film that could help people.
When I think about the scenes in film that have left a searing imprint on my consciousness, I find myself always coming back to the wonderful Green Line bus stop scene in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
Here it is:
When I first saw it, my heart stopped beating. Even after subsequent endless viewings on YouTube, I still can’t get over this scene. If we strip back the cinematic elements, what we see is Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson), reuniting with his adopted sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who we know Richie has a deep and unrealised affection for.
Anderson – the maestro that he is – utilises these cinematic elements to powerfully immerse us into the lovesick psyche of Richie Tenenbaum. He captures a perfect moment, using the wonderfully melancholy track “These Days” by Nico to provide as emotional anchor (I’m a sucker for good soundtracks). When we see Margot, time literally slows down for Richie Tenenbaum: and thus, for the audience. The resulting effect is utterly mesmerising.
The cherry-on-top is the beautiful husky narration (courtesy of Alec Baldwin), which provides us with details about the world which manage to be both specific and cryptic at the same time (“He had made a request for his usual escort – the one from his days on the circuit – to meet him by the pier by way of the green line bus“), as if from the perspective of a very keen historian. What Anderson grants us with on screen however, is a scene from within the consciousness of his characters. The with-holding of information in the narration alone further adds to the emotional wallop when it is revealed that his “usual escort” is indeed Margot Tenenbaum. A scene like this can only exist in cinema. Wes Anderson perfectly portrayed loneliness and longing in the space of ninety seconds.
Let’s watch it again:
Directed by Wes Anderson
The dashing, suit-wearing auteur himself, Wes Anderson, brings us into his world again, this time in the shape of a wonderful thriller-caper film. The film moves at a cracking pace, which is both a blessing and a curse at times, but it’s so richly dense with character and style. Who knew he could be so dark. I feel like it’s hard to rate his films: they’re all consistently amazing, but as an audience, you get lulled into certain expectations: and when those expectations are subverted, it has the possibly of negatively affecting the response of the film. I still have a greater personal attachment to Moonrise Kingdom, but that is not to say that Budapest isn’t incredible in it’s own right: it truly is.