Slightly contrary to its über-hip, deeply self-aware, post-ironic rhyming title, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not a comedy, although there are certainly a wealth of funny ideas, lines and moments in its first act. The second and third acts, however, are as maudlin, grim and depressing as any other boy meets girl, girl is dying of cancer movie (and there have been quite a few of late).
It’s a strange one. Most of the elements work: the performances, the storyline, the characters, the milieu, the music and the cinematography are all fine, and the dialogue is often way, way above fine; however, it is glacially slow, and the tone is such a downer for those two acts that they feel like a betrayal of the first (and that spunky title).
As the Dying Girl, Olivia Cooke is masterful and moving and with one stroke establishes a movie career. All of her moments are winners, and then along comes a scene comprised of one single very long take with her in the foreground that takes your breath away: she’s not just good, she’s great. As “Me” and “Earl”, however, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler are fine without being breath-taking, and you can’t imagine Hollywood getting excited about them as it will about Cooke – could she even get an Oscar nomination? If so, she would deserve it; all that stands in her way is the lacklustre material surrounding her.
I was getting very fidgety in the third act of this film; it feels much longer than its 105 minutes. If it wasn’t for Cooke, this would definitely only muster two and a half stars, despite all the groovily obscure art-house cinema jokes that I got every single one of.