Playing like an offbeat, indie version of The Fault in Our Stars, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl works to a point. The whole dying-of-cancer subgenre pic isn’t one I have ever cared for (give or take Shadowlands), but here at least mawkishness and crass sentimentality are kept largely at bay. My reservations are more to do with the arch, slightly self-consciously hip tone perpetuated throughout by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Then again, to some that will be the entire point.
Jesse Andrews’ screenplay adopts his own novel, retelling the story of Greg (Thomas Mann), a high schooler with low self-esteem. Greg spends most of his time trying to be invisible in high-school by skilfully remaining on good terms with key cliques. However, his world is rocked when his mother insists he spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate who has been diagnosed with cancer. Slowly but surely a friendship develops between them, and eventually he enlists the help of his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) to make a film as a tribute to her. Greg and Earl are film buffs, and have been making spoofs of their favourite movies for years.
There are good things here; principally winning performances and genuinely funny (and quite highbrow) movie spoofs – A Sockwork Orange, Senior Citizen Cane and others, including some genuinely hilarious Werner Herzog gags. The relationship between Rachel and Greg remains refreshingly platonic, and there are other amusing elements of note (including a recurring gag involving an animated moose).
However, as a whole the film may be a bit too offbeat for some audiences. I liked it, but didn’t feel fully emotionally engaged in the way I do during, say, Wes Anderson’s best work, which exists in similarly offbeat environments. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is certainly a notable curiosity though, and I can imagine certain audiences will love it.