This weekend, along with most of America, Sage and I went to see the movie adaptation of John Green’s best-selling YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Some articles that I won’t deign to link to may tell us that we should be embarrassed to flock to a novel/movie aimed at teenagers. Me? I say WHO CARES? Also, The Fault In Our Stars is an intelligent respite in a summer movie landscape filled with explosions, superheroes in middling sequels, and lowbrow comedies filled with fart jokes. I think we as a movie going public are STARVING for films that make us FEEL things, which is WHY TFIOS beat a Tom Cruise movie at the box office this weekend.
TFIOS is so much more than a movie about kids with cancer. It’s a movie about life and acceptance of what comes your way. It’s a story about parents and children and the unbreakable bond between them. It’s a story about first love and how it changes you. But at its core, it is a movie about not being afraid of opening yourself to love…even if that love devastates you, because at least you HAD it. As Gus memorably says in the film, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you”. Obviously…that is only a theme teenagers need to hear. *eye roll*
There’s no way I can do a straight up review of this film or one of our classic lists of all the times we overreacted…because basically this entire movie was one big overreaction. So instead, let’s take a look at some of the characters and how they made us feel, as well as flail-worthy moments, shall we? Keep the tissues handy!
Many of the reviews I have read have called Augustus a gender-flipped Manic Pixie Dream Girl type. Let’s get this out-of-the-way: OF COURSE he is. What is WRONG with that? For every 50 MPDGs, there is ONE Manic Pixie Dream DUDE and us ladies deserve a little wish-fulfillment, don’t we? And BOY does Augustus Waters in the form of Ansel Elgort fulfill some wishes. I could say that I didn’t sit through most of the movie longing for someone to unabashedly and openly LOVE me the way Gus loves Hazel. I could say that. But I would be lying.
Don’t get me wrong. Gus comes off a little creepy at first, especially in the way he unnervingly stares at Hazel all through the support group meeting (which Shailene Woodley plays the “WTF do you want” face PERFECTLY). It’s a testament to both the character and Elgort’s incredibly assured performance that we forget this creepiness within minutes. Gus isn’t creepy…he’s COCKY and knows exactly what he wants and goes after it. He is full of life and passion for making the most out of every moment. He says what he is thinking. Hazel is never NOT certain that she is the one he wants (even if at first she is not certain she wants HIM…he never waivers) . It’s thisclose to being too much. But it’s not too much. It’s everything. (Basically…he’s this generation’s Lloyd Dobler, okay?)
Would that we had more of that in real life, minus the super creepy staring.
Sure this speech is directly lifted from the novel, but hearing it said by a ridiculously charming actor is an entirely different matter. I am pretty sure I heard our entire theatre let out a collective sigh.
“I’m in love with you and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
GO TO YOUR ROOM JOHN GREEN. GO TO YOUR ROOM AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID TO GIRLS EVERYWHERE AND THE GUYS WHO WILL NEVER LIVE UP TO THIS. You can compare notes with Cameron Crowe.
Now…if Gus remained this way throughout the entire movie, I would COMPLETELY agree that Gus is the Manic Pixie Dream Guy and his only purpose in the movie is to bring Hazel out of her shell and show her just how great life can be. But he doesn’t. His cancer comes back and we see that all the bravado and swagger was a front. Sure he’s still ridiculously eloquent, but we also see his anger and his fear throughout the second half of the movie, and it’s devastating. While the movie does blessedly lessen the complete decline of Gus into a shadow of himself (the book was AGONY because the Gus we fell in love with essentially disappeared), it does show him breaking down into the scared kid that was always lurking beneath the surface. Now it’s Hazel’s turn to make Gus feel like he was important and that he MATTERED…and if he only mattered to her, that should be ENOUGH. It’s a fantastic role reversal.
Excuse me while I go sob in a corner again.
Hazel Grace Lancaster
I honestly don’t think there is any other actress that could have brought Hazel to life besides Shailene Woodley. Girlfriend may be a nutcase in real life (she eats clay and says sunshine keeps her lady parts healthy after all) but she is one HELL of an actress. She captures Hazel’s cynicism and snark and anger and world-weariness in such a natural way. You just BELIEVE that she has been living with this disease for her whole life. She knows she is going to die sooner rather than later and her awareness of that fact is what shapes her. She loves FIERCELY but you see how she tries to protect others from loving her, lest they get hurt. You also see her longing for the very thing she thinks she can’t have and her befuddlement when she actually GETS it is delightful to see.
One of the great things about the movie is how it brings Hazel’s daily routine to life. It’s one thing to read about the oxygen tank but another to actually hear it as she constantly drags it behind her and to see her so dependent on it that she can’t even take it off to make-out with her boyfriend for an extended period of time. While it was a bit heavy-handed with all the Anne Frank dialogue playing in the background, Shailene’s performance when they visited the Frank House was exquisite. It was full of determination and dread and exhaustion and triumph. It was basically Hazel’s journey wrapped up in one scene and it was lovely. Despite the heavy-handedness 😉
Also the entire montage where she is continually checking her phone for a text from Gus? #GPOY
Good LORD is she a spectacular crier or what? Shailene is a master of ALL forms of crying, from the silent streaming tears to the gut wrenching sobs. She should teach classes. I really can’t discuss her delivery of Gus’ REAL eulogy on his last good day cause it was just too beautiful.
Laura Dern as Frannie Lancaster
First of all, let’s congratulate Laura Dern for looking AMAZING. Seriously. The woman is luminous. She brought such warmth to Hazel’s mom, yet you could see the fear and pain in her eyes, lurking just beneath the surface…something that is hard to get in the book. It could easily have been a one-dimensional role but in Laura’s hands Frannie was a fully formed character who brought both light and gravitas to every scene that she was in. Sure the scenes with Gus are the obvious tear-jerkers, but I found myself crying harder in scenes between Hazel and her parents…especially when she confronts them about what they are going to do once she is gone. The movie flashes back to when Hazel died and she heard her mother saying “I’m not going to be a mother anymore” several times, and it is obvious that is a heavy burden Hazel carries around. It was hard not to audibly sob when Frannie says “I will ALWAYS be your mother and it’s the best thing I have done.” to be honest. It made me want to call my parents and tell them I loved them.
Also the way Frannie (and the whole universe) obviously ships Gus and Hazel is adorable.
Sam Trammell as Michael Lancaster
I know we’re supposed to be all swoony over Gus, but really…every time Hazel’s dad was on-screen, I wanted to bone him. Seriously. He’s a dreamboat from the first meeting with Gus where he gets very Papa Bear territorial to the scene where he tells Hazel that loving Gus gives her a small glimpse into how much he and her mother love HER.
Various Flails and Feels
– Sage and I audibly squealed when they showed Hazel watching “Hollywood A.D.” from The X-Files. Yes, we knew which episode it was from a split second screen shot.
– The image of Willem Dafoe dancing around to that music is permanently burned into my brain now. Did he play that part with relish or what?
– Speaking of the Van Houten scene, that was the PERFECT use of the one F-Bomb a PG-13 movie allows.
– The egg scene was perfection. As was Nat Wolff as Issac.
– Gus’ reaction when Hazel walks out in that blue dress. Again…he’s just not making it fair for men in the real world.
– “I just want to cry and play video games.” I found a gif of this a few days ago and didn’t save it so I am a failure at life.
– “I don’t want to see a world without Augustus Waters.”
– Who else is DYING to go to Amsterdam now?
– I KNOW it’s lifted directly from the book, but was all the clapping in the Anne Frank House a little too much? It was the only time I came close to an eye roll with how much everyone in the universe seemed to be on the SS Gus/Hazel.
– The soundtrack of the movie is perfection. Exceedingly rude use of Kodaline’s “All I Want” (“If you loved me…why’d you leave me?”)
– I am thankful to the screenwriters for leaving so many direct passages of the novel in tact, but none more so than Augustus’ last letter, which was made even worse by the use of a montage. UGH.
So, dear readers, just how hard did YOU cry? Let us know in the comments.