A Latino director has just made history at Sundance. Following up his moderately well-received horror debut, The Town that Dreaded Sundown, with a tear-jerking dramedy about an adolescent friendship and a terminal cancer patient aptly titled Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, Tejano helmer and Javier Bardem look-alike Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has struck a landmark deal with distributors Fox Searchlight and Indian Paintbrush for a whopping $12 million. It doesn’t take a Film Studies B.A. to realize that that’s a whole boatload of money, but for a little perspective here’s an interesting detail: it’s the largest sum of money ever paid for a distribution deal at Sundance. To quote the timeless words of Keanu Reeves: “Whoa.”
After moving a dewy-eyed audience to rise in standing ovation at the film’s world premiere last weekend, the distribution details were hashed out at an after party held at the Grey Goose Blue Door Lounge, where all sorts of famous people were drinking Grey Goose-related cocktails and talking about movies. Oddly, I’m not surprised. More importantly, our homeboy John Leguizamo was also spotted on the premises celebrating the success of his latest Sundance hit, The Experimenter.
Me & Earl & The Dying Girl has received outspoken praise from critics and audiences alike in the wake of its premier, with industry titans like Variety hailing it as a “touchstone for its generation.” Penned by writer Jesse Andrews, and based on his novel of the same name, Me & Earl & The Dying Girl follows Greg Gaines, a teenaged amateur filmmaker who can’t quite figure out how to relate to his peers. When Greg begrudgingly befriends a cancer-stricken classmate at the behest of his mother, the two develop a deep platonic bond that slowly reveals new layers and emotional complexity to the characters. Then, presumably, it gets really sad…
Yes, it’s got ‘tear-jerker’ written all over it, but to his credit, early reviews suggest that Gomez-Rejon eschewed the excessive sentimentality we might expect from this type of story and instead focused on the characters and their endearing senses of humor. Not an easy feat for a young director, but Gomez-Rejon cut his teeth over many years working in diverse roles alongside the likes of Martin Scorsese and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Undoubtedly, this is a guy who put in his time and earned it.