There is something about dying way too young from some cruel force or circumstance (cancer, car crash, suicide, a Hunger Game) that just floors teen and 20something audiences, and to some extent authors and filmmakers. I don’t know how many YA novels have used this plot element, but movie-wise we’ve had If I Stay, The Fault In Our Stars, The Lovely Bones…a lot of kids buying the farm. Hell, cancer-wise you could go all the way back to Arthur Hiller and Eric Segal‘s crushingly maudlin Love Story. They’ve all been manipulative and overbearing to varying degrees. And now we have Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl…yes, another one. Lukemia killing a teenaged girl. But this time the material is finagled in a much hipper, somewhat dryer, less maudlin, a lot more clever, Wes Anderson-like form, and it’s not half bad. Much of the crowd seemed to be moved; I was a bit more circumspect. At times I felt the film was behaving in an almost oppressively sensitive fashion. But it doesn’t quite. At times I felt it was too much in love with the main character’s (i.e., Greg Gaines) sensitivity and the way his heart is slowly cracking as a pretty girl named Rachel, with whom he’s fallen in love, slowly succumbs. But most of the time it holds back just enough. The youngish Gomez-Rejon is a gifted and inventive filmmaker who prays at the church of Criterion — he has a deep and abiding worship of movie lore — and he weaves his hip-film-nerd sensibility into Jesse Andrews‘ screenplay (based on his 2013 novel of the same name). I’m not sure I want to see this film again because on some level it almost felt like a chore. Please. But it’s definitely the smartest and coolest and arty-doodliest film about a cancer-afflicted teen that I’ve ever seen. Damning with faint praise? No, but Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is what it is. I have to catch the Jared Hess film at 6:30 pm…25 minutes from now. I’ll expand on this later.