And, of course, fans of the book, like me, had to go see it. I paid money to feel sad, and it's not like that was unexpected. Then again, that's the whole point, right? If it makes you feel nothing, why bother? In that case, here are my thirteen semi-coherent thoughts:
It's spoiler-free, assuming you've read the book.
- This is not a roller coaster that only goes up. This is a roller coaster that only goes down. You probably should've gotten off, but now it's too late. Story time: There's an amusement park near where I live. It's over a half hour drive to get there, but I've been there often enough to be familiar with every ride. My problem is that I love roller coasters, but hate drops. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy the feeling of my internal organs trying to rearrange themselves as we head down the first hill. There's one roller coaster there that begins with a huge drop. The rest of it is fun, but the drop is a little much for me. And yet, every time I go there, I go on that coaster. I'm not sure if I forget the drop, or if I just hope that it'll be different this time, for some reason. Each time, I remember that drop when the car is chugging up the hill, when it's too late. That is exactly how I felt while I sat in the theater, waiting for the movie to play. Maybe this time, it'll be different. Maybe it won't hurt. Maybe this was a bad idea.
- Ansel Elgort is perfect. I don't know much about him, and I've never seen him in anything else, but I don't think anyone could have found a better Augustus. He gives the character the wit and charm needed to make the movie work. He doesn't tone down Gus's pretentiousness at the beginning--people like to criticize the character for his arrogance. Yes, he's arrogant, but that's part of the point. He changes, and becomes more down-to-earth, both through his relationship with Hazel and his own illness. Ansel Elgort's portrayal reflects this.
- It's faithful to the book. It would've been so easy for this movie to abandon the book and start doing its own thing. People who only see the movie are less likely to accept an unhappy ending than readers, in my experience. "You can't kill a main character!" screams everyone who has never been in a fandom. While I don't think a movie company would have gone as far as to eliminate Gus's death--that would change the entire structure of it--I wouldn't have been surprised if they sugarcoated it. If they made it easier to take, somehow. They could have made his death somehow heroic, even through the cancer, maybe even with a major redemption from Van Houten. While Van Houten gets a little more redemption here than in the book, the movie still stays on track. It does cut a few things out, but then again, it's a movie and it's limited in ways that books aren't.
- They didn't include the quote that forms the title. It's one of the loveliest quotes from the book: "But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.'" If you haven't read the book, how is the title going to make any sense without that quote?
- I love how they did Hazel's voiceover. This book has so many iconic lines, and the movie did an excellent job of including as many of them as possible. We hear many of them narrated by Hazel, and most are lifted directly from the book. It does the book homage while still translating it to screen in a way that makes sense.
- It's not afraid to show the effects of Hazel and Gus's cancer. Like I said earlier, it would've been so easy to sugarcoat this movie, to maintain the image of healthy, perfect characters. It's toned down a little from the book, but it's still there. A perfect example of this is the gas station scene, where Gus starts throwing up over his steering wheel and has to call Hazel for help. We could have just seen it from Hazel's end of the phone call, but instead it showed everything. Of course, this scene is so much harder for anyone who read the book first. If this is your first experience with tFioS, it's "Oh my gosh, I hope Gus is okay", but if you know what's coming, it's more like "NOPE NOPE NOPE I'M NOT READY FOR THIS".
- Um...hello...John Green's cameo? While many fans were eagerly awaiting John Green's cameo in this movie, it never came. The scene didn't make the final cut. I can see why--it serves almost no purpose except to say, "Look, here's John Green. Yay, everyone!" And he's a bit awkward in it. Still, it's John Green, so I'm disappointed that it wasn't included. You can watch the cameo here.
- This moment. There are plenty of moments in this movie that make you go, "Oh, it's okay, I didn't need my feelings anyway." One of the worst, in my opinion, isn't the funeral scene. It's not the very end. It's this, when Hazel goes into the hospital. I could only find this GIF, but look at Gus in the background. He looks so helpless. The girl he loves might be dying, and they won't even let him in. It's a tiny shot, but it's one of the most powerful in the entire movie.
- The soundtrack has some awesome songs on it. Throughout the movie, you hear bits and pieces of various soundtrack songs, including artists like Ed Sheeran and Grouplove. I said the same thing in my review of How To Train Your Dragon 2, but here it is again: I could keep talking about the soundtrack, or you could just go listen to it. It's all here on YouTube, and you can hear most of it on Spotify.
- It's a bit less irreverent than the book. The book is more cynical, and has a bit more (rightful) angst. It has more anger at how they have to deal with so many things that aren't their fault, hence the title. When Hazel speaks at the funeral, she gives a speech about how hard Gus fought, and how he maintained his sense of humor until the end, when she believes none of it. This scene is present in the movie, but it felt more sad and resigned than anything else. In the book, it came across as more angry, which suits the story better.
- Brace yourselves. Pain is coming. It's The Fault in Our Stars. What do you expect? Everyone who has read the book will know exactly what's coming for them. Maybe some people can get through it unscathed, but I'm not part of that crowd. Then again, isn't that the point of fiction? If it doesn't make you feel something, why bother? My friend and I made some observations about this on the drive home from the theater--we noticed that there's a reason people who tend to consume a lot of fiction gravitate toward sad things. My theory is that people who connect deeply with fiction are exposed to so much of it that they become desensitized. No matter what emotions it evokes, it becomes harder and harder to feel anything. At that point, it takes something full of strong emotions to cut through to that person. In most cases, this feeling is sadness. Nobody likes to be sad, and yet, anybody who values fiction knows how amazing it is to have something impact you that strongly. Sad things are able to do this. Thus, we're into sad things.
- My friend and me at the end: "Whyyyy?" "Now what?" "What is life?" "I can't." "What am I supposed to do with this?" "Nope." And so on. I'm sure we sounded highly intelligent, but we were the only ones left in the theater and we didn't know how to cope. I'm still not sure if I'm handling it. We knew what we were getting into, but that didn't make it easier.
Overall, The Fault in Our Stars is an excellent adaptation of the book. It's not perfect--no adaptation ever is. Still, it captures the essence of the characters and John Green's message, and that's the most important part.
What did you think of The Fault in Our Stars? Did you bring a box of Kleenex to the theater?