It’s a story that I hope everyone experiences, in the hopes that people will become more serious and more compassionate about human life.
If you want a compelling, wise, heart felt, and spectacularly twisted story of teenage love, Josh and John are the ones you want. John Green’s novels are the epitome of a YA novel and John Boone’s directing put to life the story of young Hazel Grace and Augustus.
When I found out that Josh Boone was directing The Fault In Our Stars, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I have only seen one other Boone movie, Stuck In Love, which I only watched one night after work when I just needed something to listen to while I did school work. Immediately I was hooked on the spectacular story of a family of three trying to navigate through their own complicated relationships. Stuck in Love is witty, real, hopeful, and beautiful and is exactly how I would want to make a movie. The fact that Boone was directing TFIOS was great news. (Also writer Scott Neustadter of 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now!!! What a great combo!)
I can only imagine the fear one feels when they agree to adapt a movie that is obsessed over by so many. This film could have gone one of two ways: way too overly depressing or way too overly cheesy. I am pleased to say that the adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars not only exceeded my expectations, but also has added more insight on life, love, and death that I didn’t think was possible.
Yes, okay, everyone was crying after the movie, and the theater was layered in a heavy blanket of boogery mess. It’s hard to convince people that this story isn’t as sad and depressing as some make it out to be. It’s not “One Sick Love Story” as the marketing team so inconsiderately decided to brand it. It’s a story that I hope everyone experiences, in the hopes that people will become more serious and more compassionate about human life.
Hazel Grace Lancaster, played by the Shailene Woodley, is a 17-year-old teenager that loves reading and reality television. She also has cancer. While her doctor is trying to convince her that she is depressed (because “depression is a side effect of cancer”) she is somehow finagled into going to the Cancer Support Group. At this support group, in the “Literal Heart of Jesus” we meet Patrick, the unfortunate man whose sole purpose is to remind the people of the support group that you do not want to end up like him (he is sans one testicle and lives with his parents, enough said). Next is Isaac, played by Nat Wolff, the lovable goof (who also starred in Stuck In Love), who provides an important comic relief for the audience and reminds us of the different struggles people have with cancer and also with love. And finally, Augustus Waters.
To quote Hazel: “I fell in love with him like you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Augustus Waters, played by Ansel Elgort, stole the heart of every soul in that theater. Hazel and Augustus have their first conversation outside of the Literal Heart of Jesus. It is sarcastic, witty, and ignites the fire. The conversation takes a turn for the worse when Augustus takes a cigarette out of his jacket and sticks it in his mouth. Hazel is deeply offended by the fact that he seems to be smoking, but it turns out that its all a metaphor. (I know it sounds silly but trust me its great, really!) Augustus doesn’t actually light the cigarette. He uses it as tool of power: “You put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth, but you never give it the power to kill you.” I know, kind of cheesy right? That’s the first thing I thought when I read it in the book (and I’m sure that’s how people felt when it played out on camera). But it’s brilliant really! Think about it: a kid with cancer learning from a young age that life is precious, and that you could die at any second with no warning and you can’t do anything about it besides sit around and hope some Chernobyl type stuff can cure you. Augustus took refuge in the fact that he could have some control, and if that means buying a pack of cigarettes and refusing to light them just for the sake of metaphor then that’s good enough for me.
As you can imagine The Fault In Our Stars is full of metaphors. It’s also full of life lessons jumbled up in the clichéd encouragements given to cancer patients.
Hazel Grace’s obsession with one book is all too familiar for us lovers of the written word. She becomes obsessed with An Imperial Affliction, a book by Peter Van Houten. It’s a book about cancer but not the typical “be positive” or “create a special ‘in loving memory’ fund to raise money for So and So’s cat.” It’s a most perfect book about death from a man who is living. The title is very fitting. If we remember the morbidly fantastic Emily Dickenson’s “There’s a certain slant of Light”, where John Green got the idea to name this fictitious book, it contains the reminder that life isn’t just about doom and gloom.
Hazel presents this book to Augustus and he promises to read it. At this point Hazel is waiting for her phone to ring to get his reaction to the book. She is constantly checking her phone and is disappointed when she doesn’t see his name with a text. The film does a fantastic job at incorporating the texts messages with fancy imagery on the screen. As a text comes in, it is presented on the screen in adorable air bubbles. This is a great feature to include in the film because it reminds the audience of the real reason TFIOS is a movie, because we first read the book.
The book becomes Hazel and Augustus’ baby. They re-read it and re-read it and have questions about it that have never been answered because of the reclusiveness of Van Houten (ooo another illusion to Dickenson I see). Before Hazel even met Augustus she had been writing to Van Houten begging for answers, but to no avail. Augustus on the other hand is able to get through to him via his assistant (don’t know why Hazel didn’t think of that). Hazel finally gets an email through to him and he responds asking her to go to Amsterdam, where he lives, to ask him questions in person.
Unfortunately, it costs money to be sick. Mrs. Lancaster reluctantly says no to Hazel Grace because they can’t afford it. She also has already used up her Super Special Awesome Trip To Remind You That You Still Have Life Before Your Inevitable Demise (that’s what I’m going to call it) or basically the equivalent of the Make-A-Wish foundation. She used it on Disneyland, which to Augustus is disgusting and he knows she could have done better (but honestly who wouldn’t want to go to Disneyland for free?). But luckily, Augustus has yet to use his wish…
Augustus and Hazel (and Hazel’s mom because who is going to send two teenagers to Amsterdam without a chaperone?) embark on a dazzling and breathtaking trip to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten and ask him their burning questions.
Before Augustus and Hazel meet Van Houten, they go to dinner at Oranjee (still don’t know how to pronounce it. Is it Orange-ee? Oran-ji? No idea.) At this super fancy and super romantic restaurant Augustus and Hazel are talking about death. The screen fades into a conversation they are having about death where Augustus says “God?” and Hazel answers “No.” It suggests that Hazel is saying that she does not believe in God. This is a question that had to have been entered in by the writers because it was not in the book. There is no questioning of God. Heaven, yes, but not God. I find this key philosophical question rather perfect, for me especially, because it seems like John Green did not really want to delve into the whole believing in god or not deal with Hazel. The existence of god is easy to question when faced with death everyday. The fact that the writers decided to make a subtle remark on Hazel’s feelings makes me believe that the adaptation of TFIOS was not only to reimagine the story but also to transform it into something more.
Oh, and also Augustus says that he loves Hazel and its really romantic and awesome, and I loved every second of it. But you have to see it for yourself because I don’t think I can retell the beauty.
During this trip Hazel and Augustus find out that Van Houten is not the man they thought he was. He turns out to be an unworthy drunk that gets Hazel so worked up that she ends their visit with a fabulous “fuck you.”
Though their expectations were not met, they decide to go to the Anne Frank House. At the Anne Frank House they finally kiss. I say finally because throughout the movie (mostly the book) the relationship between Augustus and Hazel Grace is so perfect you wonder why they haven’t jumped on each other!
But we must not victimize cancer and remember that they still have a life to live and they are going to celebrate every last second of it.
What’s really interesting about this point is that I think John Green did this wonderfully. They don’t kiss until they are in the Anne Frank House, a place that I’m sure is full of upsetting imagery that can only make everything feel totally unromantic. However, maybe going to the Anne Frank House is supposed to inspire the two. Anne Frank had to hide from people who wanted to kill her and she made it far enough to actually live a somewhat normal teenage life (I mean by having feelings for a boy and being angsty and what not). Maybe the house was actually supposed to make them feel more alive than ever? Throughout the scene, passages were read from The Diary of Anne Frank and quotes can be heard from Otto Frank (Anne’s dad). Boone’s creativity with the scene actually helped me to understand the point of them being at the Anne Frank House. The sounds are played perfectly throughout the scene, at the right moments, to play against Hazel’s struggle to walk through the house with an oxygen tank.
And finally Augustus decides to end the trip with some information that made us gasp for air just as Hazel does. His PET scan “lit up like a Christmas Tree” and we find out his cancer is back. And it sucks.
But we must not victimize cancer and remember that they still have a life to live and they are going to celebrate every last second of it.
After a bout of rebellion that involved throwing eggs at Isaac’s evil ex-girlfriends car,
Elgort has an impressive scene with Woodley that displays the lows of cancer. He is helplessly stuck at a convenience store in his car because he is having a sort of episode that involves realistic gagging and a terrifyingly unhealthy looking Elgort. I think that the only reason this scene has so much power is because of the fact that the Augustus’ cancer is internal. We see Hazel throughout the movie, always pulling her oxygen tank behind her with her cannula firmly in her nose. There is no way of hiding her cancer. But Augustus could walk down the street looking fit as a fiddle (besides a slight limp and a metal leg that could easily go unnoticed). We are seeing, for the first time, Augustus’ cancer. And it’s proving to us that he will not live to be an adult. Augustus is rushed to the hospital after Hazel finds him with vomit on his shirt.
After Augustus’ episode, in an impromptu setting late at night, Hazel, Isaac, and Augustus meet in a synagogue in the “Literal Arm of Jesus”. Augustus wants to attend his own funeral. Hazel and Isaac write eulogies for Augustus. Starting with Isaac, he performs a hilariously witty soliloquy that makes you laugh and shed a silent tear. Hazel performs her eulogy, it is perfect, and we all cry and you realize that the reality is that they have cancer and they can die.
“Augustus Waters died eight days after his prefuneral…when the cancer, which was made of him, finally stopped his heart, which was made of him.”
Yes Augustus dies. He dies and we are all mad about it and it sucks.
His death does not end the movie. There is more to discover about Augustus. We find out that he wrote a letter to Van Houten before his death. Augustus asks Van Houten’s advice on how to write a eulogy for Hazel. He spills his heart out in the letter and expresses his love for Hazel. This sweet moment is the last piece of Augustus that we experience with Hazel. It is the last hope that there is some sort of closure between the two and that he didn’t just die miserably. His spirit held on and left us one last instant of the power of the Augustan heart.
Whether this movie is a commentary on how we view people with cancer, or a metaphorical stance on how to live life, I just hope that people come out of the theater and realize that nothing is guaranteed and life isn’t fair at all. The true magic of this story is that everyone can get past feeling depressed, sad, angry, and scared and come out of it feeling like you’re on a roller coaster that only goes up.
I am so happy about the way the movie turned out. I wouldn’t change a thing. It makes me excited for future Boone productions and future John Green adaptations (next is Paper Towns!).
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”
What are your thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars? Did it move you as it did me? Sound off below…
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2 thoughts on “Film Review: The Fault In Our Stars”
I may be the only person on the planet who hasn’t read TFIOS. I just can’t bring myself to read a book I know can’t have an ending I’m going to like. I won’t be watching the film either – crying gives me puffy eyes and a headache 🙁 But I was really interested to read your take on it and learn a bit more about the plot 🙂
Wow thank you! I have yet to think of a good argument to have people read this book (or see the movie) besides the usual “Oh my god its so good!”
All I can say is: its okay to cry! Its okay to get emotional! Don’t be afraid of those feelings!
I think you should give it a chance!