Dissecting The Fault In Our Stars

Fault in our Stars HeaderLauren: To all those I have angered with my book reviews, break out your pitchforks once more: time to remind you that John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars is overrated.  Boom!  Now I’m not saying bad, just overrated.  But unlike The Spectacular Now (something that Zac and I both feel is way overrated), whereas that film failed to improve on the book’s problems, the film adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars succeeds.  At least for the most part.

It’s not that the story doesn’t hit me where it should; you would have to be a monster not to get all weepy about a love story between two teenage cancer patients.  They’re adorable and tragic, and the tissues are damp because of it.  With that said, there are some elements that just don’t work.  While reading the book I wanted to burn all copies of the book within the book that Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters are obsessed with.  They talk about it so much, and it gets annoying fast.  But in the film, it is managed at a bearable level.  It’s not like you could get rid of it, what with the underlying theme of continuing on after the death of a loved one.  And without it there would be no making out in the house in which Anne Frank hid from the Nazis.  And we MUST have making out in the Anne Frank house.

Zac: Yeah, what was up with making out at Anne Frank’s house?

I have not read the book, so keep your pitchforks for Lauren, but I did enjoy this film from nearly start to finish. I didn’t have the emotional reaction the film wanted out of me, but I think that might have to do with the filmmaking and story structure; it was certainly not the actors fault.

Actually, I was pretty on board with everything this movie had going for it until they got to Amsterdam. I would have loved if they would have taken a page out of the Before series and just watched these two navigate the streets of Amsterdam, falling for each other, because their relationship is the film’s strongest asset. But this is where the plot starts getting in the way and the story really starts to pile on. The stuff with the author was a nice little twist, and everything he had to say was sort of what Hazel needed to hear whether she like it or not, but the Anne Frank scene really was a bummer for me. I get that Anne Frank’s words made sense out-of context when applied to Hazel, but as tragic as dying young from cancer and hiding from the Nazis both are, I don’t see the correlation between the two. In fact, comparing the two almost seems offensive. Then they had to set the big first kiss with accompanying applause break in the middle of Anne Frank’s house; it just seemed so tone deaf and inappropriate. Hazel’s struggle up the stairs also felt incredibly forced upon for the sake of drama, only to be topped by ruining the redeeming sex scene by piling on even more with Gus’s returning cancer. I get the desire to pull a twist on who dies in the end, but I think exploring Hazel’s slow descent in health could have been a better focus for the story. The film gets away with a lot because of “cancer perks,” but the piling on gets to be too much to feel all that authentic in the end.

Lauren:  I had a problem with that scene because Hazel spends a lot of time in the movie making her point about not aspiring to be someone everyone will remember, just mattering to your smaller universe is enough.  But then we have all these Anne Frank quotes being read over her, drawing comparisons because of that set up.  Yeah… I was not a fan of that.  Heather saw the film with me, though, and had a different read on it than I did.

Differing from you, I didn’t have any problems with Hazel’s struggles up the stairs; it makes sense that she would force herself through that considering she was just majorly ticked off by what her favorite author had to say about sick kids.  But then right after she makes it to the top, it’s all good; when she should be fading in and out against the wall, she has a makeout session.  It just seemed like there was an inconsistency to depicting her level of sickness and struggle throughout the film.

As for the return of Gus’ cancer, that makes perfect sense to me.  Granted, had Hazel been the one to die Green could have ended his film with an unfinished sentence, that would have been a strong choice for the obvious comparison to her favorite book, but I actually think it’s better they went with Gus dying.  Not because I was one of the obnoxious girls in the back row of my screening loudly gasping and giggling when Ansel Elgort winked at Shailene Woodley the first time, but because it seemed true to me.  Thinking back to my own experiences with cancer, it seems to fit.  I always assumed my aunt was going to be OK when she went into remission, like it was all done and she got to move on and live her life, happy and with newfound faith, but the world doesn’t always work that way.  Besides, it just works better structurally to end with her voiceover since the movie started with it.  A recent YA novel switched narrators in the end to deal with a similar situation, and it just didn’t work.

On the other hand, what didn’t seem authentic about the ending to me was forcing the author back into the story.

Zac: I get what you are saying about Gus, his cancer return was entirely plausible, the reveal just didn’t feel authentic to me for some reason. Maybe it was just its placement in the overall story, taking away something right as they reach their high. Wouldn’t their sex scene been all the more poignant if they both knew they were dead? I don’t know.

More so, it felt like Hazel’s story got lost in the end to Gus’. Yeah they gave us the nice scene where she gets resolution with her parents being able to move on, but it feels more tacked on than a naturally developed moment. I get Hazel finds a lot of resolution, but it didn’t feel like her story anymore. It didn’t feel like I was right along side them. I felt like more of an observer than living in the pain with them.

Lauren: Fair enough. Now that you’ve explained it like that I will say that while watching I did feel the same somewhat on both of these things.  Gus’ reveal kind of seemed like an afterthought how it was placed, and at first when he said that he needed to talk to her it felt more like he was going to say something more inline with “stop being a jerk to your parents” than “turns out I’m dying again.”  And that moment with Hazel’s parents, what is supposed to be one of the biggest moments for her character considering the theme of her fear for their lives post her death did feel like it was squeezed in because she was rushing out the door.  That should have been some big cathartic moment, and it just didn’t get to breathe.

Zac:  As for the Willem Dafoe’s author showing up to the funeral: it didn’t bother me; he is a troubled dude and I didn’t feel any more or less of him than I did before. He was ultimately there as a plot device, and that might actually speak to the back half of the film not living up to the fantastic front. The back half felt like it was hitting its plot points, the front felt like an authentic love story that was alive and real.

Lauren:  Dafoe coming back just makes me so angry!  It just ruins this moment of grieving because he didn’t deserve to be there.  The way he just shows up over her shoulder in an off-white suit jacket really had me wondering if she was hallucinating or something.  I knew she wasn’t since this also happened in the book, but this continues to be the most forced moment in the entire story for me.

I dunno, maybe I was just being protective of Gus at that point, or even Hazel because she was about to give this speech at the funeral.  Or maybe I was offended on their behalf that this douchpants would have the audacity to show up after saying they weren’t special…

Ansel Elgort is special!  Maybe I wasn’t wiping the drool off my face like I am assuming a lot of the audience was considering their reactions to many of his scenes, but he really won me over in this role.  I didn’t think his performance in Divergent was anything special, granted it’s not like that character was written to stand out, but he really surprised me with his performance here.  Had I not been sitting on them, my pants would have been charmed right off.

Zac: He was almost too perfectly charming, a doofus even, but I liked him all the same. His sad face was a little weird, but that smile wins you over. Shailene Woodley is just as good, and this is her best work since The Descendants. Hazel is such a strong and real character and Woodley does a great job bringing her to life. Nat Wolff was also great as Isaac, even if some of the comic relief bits they give him border on ridiculous. He was the person that touched me the most in the movie.

The humor was also very unexpected, and much appreciated, as I found myself laughing a lot from start to finish. It doesn’t pull any punches either and never feels tone deaf, perfectly capturing the vibe you probably need to have to get through an experience like this. Though, Gus’ death being a true ten in the pain scale seemed a little to gag me.

Lauren:  Oh the pain scale… I hate that thing!  I gave an 8 to an ER nurse once before passing out from it 5 minutes later.  Yeah, I’m pretty BA.

As for Hazel, her infinity ended so I’ll let her get a little dramatic with her understanding of her emotional state.  Her life is short, so if it’s the hardest thing she has dealt with then let her call it a 10.  Can’t hold onto that number forever.

It wasn’t necessarily a 10 for me though.  I honestly cried more during Marley and Me, but I was still fully captured by this love story.  Sure there were things I would change, and I wish we could have spent even more time with Hazel’s parents, but in the end it was still a great movie.  Completely satisfying, problems and all.  Even better, it didn’t have John Green’s writing style to steal focus from his characters’ lives.  BOOM!!!

Lauren and Zac’s Final Grade:  B

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