Films with narcissistic central characters can be rewarding but are often difficult to get right (essentially asking the audience to take an interest in someone they don’t like). The likes of Greenberg or Listen Up Philip feature wholly toxic and self-centred characters; crucially however, we see how the other characters react to the narcissism and struggle to accept this selfish behaviour. Whereas these stories are being told from an objective point of view, the events of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl are being told from Greg’s point of view and so a wholly objective viewpoint is perhaps not appropriate. Greg’s subjective viewpoint however should reflect that he has lived through the events he is describing, that he has already learned the important life lessons that unfold on screen. We need to see the other characters’ reactions in order to understand what Greg’s narcissistic tendencies were previously preventing him from seeing. There needs to be something in either Greg’s narration or the way the other characters act around Greg to show that what Greg was perceiving and reacting to at the time, wasn’t indicative of what was actually happening.
The complete and utter failure to achieve this by writer Jesse Andrews and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon means that the supposedly ‘real’ world that they’ve created for the film is nothing but a fantasy: a world where events occur and characters behave only in ways that benefit Greg (Thomas Mann); where every important life lesson comes with an sizeable portion of bullshit.