It might seem like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is trying to capitalize on the popularity of last year’s The Fault In Our Stars. While the general premise might be similar enough, it’s an inaccurate observation. Greg (Thomas Mann) pretty much says so in the beginning when he informs us that it’s not a movie about teenage romance.
When Greg’s mother (Connie Britton) tells him that his classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has been diagnosed with leukemia, she wants him to spend time with her. Greg, who has an uncanny resemblance to Jeremy from the Zits comic by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, doesn’t respond well to the idea, nor does Rachel, but both reluctantly accept the arrangement.
Greg is a socially awkward teenager who mostly keeps to himself. He has a system in place that allows him to mingle with most groups at school without actually investing time or effort into them, but for the most part, he spends his free time in Mr. McCarthy’s (Jon Bernthal) office with Earl (Ronald Cylar II), his “co-worker” – they film bad movie parodies together – eating lunch and watching movies. He doesn’t accept the idea of having ‘friends’ and tends to keep people at a distance, which is what makes his newfound relationship with Rachel so endearing. He lets her into his world of sarcasm, dry humour, filmmaking, and indifference toward the future.
We spend more time feeling sorry for him than we do her.
But while the story pretty much writes itself, the real charm is in the casting. The supporting cast is made up of familiar faces. Molly Shannon, Rachel’s caring yet overtly flirtatious mother, Nick Offerman, Greg’s eccentric father, and Connie Britton as his mother. And then there’s the main cast of Mann and Olivia, who shine in their roles as seemingly typical teenagers going through atypical situations, and Cylar as Earl is worth every second of screen time with his good-natured yet blunt commentary.
Me and Earl doesn’t aim to be a love story, nor does it try to be a tearjerker, but something to watch for its authenticity. It’s funny and heartwarming, and in between the indie nature of the film and its quirkiness, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon brings it all together to make it worthwhile.