About nine months ago my friend Anne told me to read John Green’s book The Fault In Our Stars. I purchased a copy on a whim and while I admit I was a little late to the TFIOS train, I went through the thing in about a week. I remember that unfortunately I was in a rather public area when I finished chapter 20 and started 21 (fellow readers of the novel will understand the weight of such things) and thus was crying pretty terribly in a large room full of my peers. I remember that when I finished the novel I had to call my mom because of how badly the thing had shaken me.
Over dramatic? Perhaps. I have to say that before starting the novel I was somewhat suspicious of its effects on readers. I, indeed, have a tumblr, so I played witness to a lot of preteen and teen girls just raving about it. It made ever-cynical me slightly skeptical of the book, and I thought that it would perhaps just be some adolescent thing packed with “feels.” Not necessarily high literature.
I am glad to say that I was wrong. John Green had crafted one of the most honest stories I’d ever seen. Yes, indeed, aimed at young adults, but written intelligently too. I like John Green because even though he writes for teens, he still at least treats his readers like adults. When I went to one of his Q&A’s, he cited books like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest as one of his favorites, and though a majority of the people (young teenage girls) around me probably were not familiar with such things, he didn’t feel the need to talk down to the audience. It’s a symbiosis of knowing who you write for and still being able to be yourself, and I respect him a lot for it.
I went into reading TFIOS knowing that they were making a film but just so I was able to craft my own visualizations of the characters in my head. I fell in love with them, I shared a week and a half with them, and then they were gone. And then it was time to wait for the movie.
I think I speak for the majority of TFIOS book lovers when I say I was incredibly nervous for the adaption. The characters are astonishingly complex and I wasn’t sure that was going to translate well to the screen. The trailer alone made me cringe a little bit because I realized that out of context, the pretentious and ridiculous things Augustus Waters would say sounded like they were being played completely straight, which in the context of the novel, are not. The trailer represented something cheesy and trite when TFIOS is anything but. Fans of the book rushed to its aid but to the masses who probably just sat through the trailer at home, it was not represented well.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, the trailer gets an F. The film itself, I am happy to say, is a different story.
I went into a screening two Thursdays ago aside my friend Daniel, another TFIOS book reader, and was amused to hear that most everyone in the audience had not read the book.
“These people have no idea what they’re getting into,” I confided to Daniel, and he agreed. We were prepared for the onslaught, at least, though even so, I found myself crying just as hard at the film as I did while reading the book.
The entire theater joined me. Rounding to the beginning of the third act, the entire room was filled with sniffles and upon exiting, dampened faces were noted on every single person’s face. For some reason I counted this as a personal victory. Now these people understood the pain I was afflicted with nine months ago.
And the film did the novel, in my eyes, absolute justice. I was off put by Ansel Elgort’s performance as Augustus in the beginning but he eventually charmed me, much like my initial reaction to Gus’ character in the book. Shailene Woodley continues her habit of delivering poignant performances (her character in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is quite different than Hazel Grace, yet she’s just as convincing) and the supporting cast backs it up even more. The technicalities are indeed far from perfect, with one too many face-framing shots but in the end this is not a movie about the direction, it’s a movie about the characters, and it sold. The perhaps overly-witty (though we wouldn’t have it any other way) dialogue gets an equal amount of laughs as the latter half of the film jerks tears, making for a well-rounded, non-manipulative feature. As opposed to the stereotypical Nicholas Sparks flick where one of the characters gets diagnosed with some tragic disease halfway through to delude the audience into thinking the movie has feelings, The Fault In Our Stars presents an honest depiction of love and sickness. There are some aspects of the book that were annulled for the sake of less screen time but the screenwriters (Scott Neustader and Michael Weber, who penned the equally heartstring-pulling (500) Days of Summer)kept the important bits and crafted a loveable screenplay, and handed it off to a loving director and a genuine cast. Again, Shailene Woodley’s performance alone makes this film worth watching. The chemistry between the two leads is absolutely staggering and again, does the book fantastic justice.
So maybe you don’t get caught up in romance stories or care to see films where you’re made to cry. But I think any person, book-reader or no, cynic or no, would be able to go into this charming, honest story and get something out of it. It’s a story that, on the outside, seems like mush, but in the end, it gets you.