We all lose people. That message is rather absent from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, or at least, it wouldn’t be had the film not set itself up with a chirpy tone and a retinue of boring narrative tropes. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, appearing rather discontent with the genre on hand, does everything in his power to pull some semblance out of the thankfully short-lived coming-of-age style that found itself set in the suburbs of America, developing the youth that stagnated there. Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann lead this futile effort, but rather than accept their fate and become cannon fodder for the Perks of Being a Wallflower crowd, Gomez-Rejon and his cast try something slightly, ever so faintly different.
This difference is quality. Great leaps are made to improve upon the general mediocrity that preceded (Perks of Being a Wallflower) and followed (The Edge of Seventeen) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Holding within it all the tropes and tribulations you should expect from this calibre of film, but presenting them with at least some notion of understanding. Tongue-in-cheek whimsy and a general understanding of what the product really is, is lost on those aforementioned horrors. Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann make for a likeable pairing. Surprisingly lacking in other products is any semblance of maturity and friendship, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has bags of it.
With these tones taking centre stage, there is a foundation to be built from, of friendship and a learning environment. While the highs and lows of Greg Gaines (Mann) and Rachel Kushner (Olivia Wilde) are presented with consistent cliché, it is hard to knock it too much. Depicting a literal, dying friendship, Gomez-Rejon works aptly with his cast, hitting all the usual notes of deplorable platitude, but with a cinematography and style that pits this work leagues above the contemporary notions. It is the birth of a style I dislike, but the groundwork of such a style has much merit to it, Gomez-Rejon captures that in abundance, with exceptional flourish that goes above and beyond what any of us could have expected of an independent-feeling drama.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not without its problems. It is manipulative, oddly dated, and the mastermind behind a long line of systematically poor filmmaking. Gomez-Rejon holds the hand of his audience a little too tightly, and there is an odd disconnect of trust between filmmaker and moviegoer. But, at a stretch, there are enjoyable pockets within. Its varied cast, ability to draw recognisable faces into the fold and what it does with its characters puts it slightly ahead of the pack. Marginal a distance that may be, it is still distance enough to make Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a palatable, even enjoyable film.