It sounds like the kind of tear-jerking swill critics piss on. Ha! The joke’s on us. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl deserves to be the summer’s sleeper hit. It’s that sharply funny, touching and vital. The terrific Thomas Mann (Project X) plays Greg, a shy teen who barely navigates the terrors of high school. His toughest assignment comes from home — his mom (Connie Britton) gives him an “or else”: Visit Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate he barely knows, who’s been diagnosed with leukemia.
No, I haven’t tricked you into the weepie hell of The Fault in Our Stars. Greg and Rachel don’t get it on in a hospital bed. Or anywhere. But they do kick the shit out of each other’s false bravado. Greg, an aspiring filmmaker, gets up the guts to show Rachel the short parody films he makes with his friend Earl (RJ Cyler), featuring titles like Pooping Tom, A Sockwork Orange and Senior Citizen Kane. She gets it.
So do we. That’s because Mann, Cooke and Cyler deserve to be stars of tomorrow, right now. There’s not an ounce of Hollywood bull in their performances. In voice-over, Greg tells us that Rachel doesn’t die. But can you believe him? Your call. I’m calling good job on the way Jesse Andrews has adapted his novel to the screen. And major props to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, a former assistant to Martin Scorsese who whips his camera around as if he were Greg. Which is the point. This film geek’s dream of a movie pulls the ground out from under you, but stays smartass to the end. Sweet.