Page to screen adaptations are always hard. The directors and producers have to please the fans of the book as well as all the people who have not read it. A lot of the times, it is the bookish who leave the theatre disappointed, because the crew has sacrificed the original plot for one they consider to be better.
And so, after watching Me and Earl and the Dying Girl yesterday, I decided that I would make a post to compare and contrast the book and their movie adaptations.
I want to start by saying that I didn’t enjoy the book very much. I had been told that it was funny, but the humor did not appeal to me; I found it weird at best and crass at worst. I could not find any common ground with the main character, and so therefore could not get into the book. As a result, I had extremely low expectations for the movie.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the movie, but not the book.
The first thing that the book shared with the movie was Jesse Andrews, who wrote both the former and the screen play for the latter. This was fortunate, as it meant that the only changes made were ones that made sense. Also, many of the phrases/sentences from the book are used when Greg is narrating.
There were a few minor changes- like Earl’s height, how many brothers he has, and the content of the final film- but it wasn’t enough to irritate me. The disgusting texts and conversations between Earl and Greg were cut out, which was awesome. Then there were the major changes at the end of the movie- like Greg having feelings and Rachel cutting up her books. To me, these were wise choices that improved the movie.
The one thing about the movie that I did not like- mostly because I didn’t understand it- was Madison asking Greg to prom. He gets all dressed up, his mom gives him a corsage, and then he goes to the hospital to show Rachel a film. All that is fine and dandy, but Greg never meets up with Madison, nor is it implied that she wanted him to go to Rachel, so it felt like she was being stood up. And I think that that could have been better.
To me, the book just translated better as a movie. The cast- including Thomas Mann as Greg, Olivia Cooke as Rachel, and R.J. Cyler as Earl- perfectly embodied the characters. Book-Greg had seemed two dimensional, but movie-Greg brought him to life and made him seem more human. Book-Greg constantly put himself down, and since that is all that we get to see of him it is all that we know. In the movie, however, there are glimpses of a good person beneath the self hatred because we get to see it for ourselves. I also found that the not-so-funny parts of the book were turned into hilarious moments in the movie. I don’t know if this is because of the wonderful cast (and that fact that Thomas reminds me of my favorite cousins) or if the removal of the crass humor was all it needed, but whatever it was I found it immensely enjoyable. The plot, which was simple and a little boring as a book, was perfectly suited for a movie in the way that it was broken up into strange chapters.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the movie more than the book. I highly recommend seeing Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which is out in theaters now, because it is funny, realistic, and incredibly moving. I think that it is a rare adaptation that will please both the people who have and haven’t read the book.