The Fault in Our Stars
With the latest addition to John Green’s arsenal of books (Turtles all the way down) confirmed to hit the big screen, I felt a throw-back-Thursday was in order.
The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) was a tragic, heartbreakingly beautiful love story, based on John Green’s bestselling novel. The sensational screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber was directed by Josh Boone, whose adaptation is an all-out assault on the tear ducts, you have to concede to its accuracy. Boone has directed only one other film, the rom-com-drama Stuck in Love, the same genre as TFIOS.
Hazel Grace Lancaster (played by Divergent’s charming Shailene Woodley), is a sixteen-year-old thyroid cancer patient, whose cancer metastasised to her lungs and requires a portable oxygen tank which she wheels around all day to make her lungs function. Her once critical disease has stabilised, thanks to an experimental drug trial called Phalanxifor, (good luck pronouncing it.) She’s also the kind of girl who drops words like ‘hamartia’ into a normal everyday chat, but hey, I’m not complaining.
Forced by her mother (Laura Dern), she attends a pitiful support group hosted by a basement dwelling, Jesus freak with only one testicle, named Patrick. To be honest, the movie is harsh on him. There she meets Augustus Waters, played the cutest walking smile, Ansel Elgort, (her brother in Divergent, awkward much?) Augustus is an osteosarcoma survivor in remission after the amputation of one leg. Bathing in the bliss of each other’s company, their cancer shadows their solace, with every decision revolving around the repercussions of their illnesses.
They share a disdain for the conventional. Gus clamps unlit cigarettes between his lips, taunting his illness, showing his defiance towards cancer; “You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” While Hazel idolizes the novel ‘An Imperial Affliction’ (AIA) that ends mid-sentence, about a cancer kid that dies – predictable huh? The pair journey to Amsterdam, meeting the novels reclusive author Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe). They desire answers on what happens after the death, yet we discover he’s ultimately a self-absorbed, self-exiled alcoholic surrounded by years of untouched fan mail and hasn’t written anything since AIA. This leads you to assume Hazel’s desperation for answers wasn’t about the aftermath of the books ending, but about her own ending. The author refuses her an answer, and maybe that’s because there isn’t one…
The title of the book was taken from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Maybe the point of TFIOS is therapy in the form of escapism, perhaps cancer was the fault of their stars after all.
I teared up throughout the entire film, and am not among the few that can survive a fantastical representation of children dying without completely choking up. It has enough wit, charm and humour to appeal to a wide audience. However, the film becomes manipulative towards the end; a procession of scenes targeting all eyes, dry or not, in the cinema. Not one, but two eulogies for a friend at a pre-funeral with days to live. Boone pushes all the emotional buttons, well he smashes them with many attempts at making that lump in your throat rise.
I was worried Boone would turn it into another teenie love story, but he didn’t. The cinematography and direction were brilliant, with every shot feeling real, none out of place. The few special effects used were adorable, and it ran beautifully throughout. The casting was damn near perfect, Shailene and Ansel’s chemistry was astounding, both performances astonishing from the budding young stars. You constantly battled between laughing and crying as the tragedy pulled your heartstrings perilously close to snapping.
On several occasions the mother runs into Hazel’s room expecting a disaster. The effortless emotion conveyed in such a small gesture was heart-breaking.
More importantly the words that survived from the book did so for a reason, with one liners such as “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations” and “I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep, slowly and then all at once.” You can’t help becoming utterly absorbed and captivated by the storyline in two hours. There are few instances where an adaptation sticks to the source, however Boone has kept Green’s novel largely intact on the screen, cutting only minor details. For instance, the existence of Caroline – Gus’ ex-girlfriend who died of brain cancer – was completely eradicated, alongside Hazel’s best friend Kaitlyn. Whereas, in the book, Caroline and her death had quite an impact on Gus, and weighed heavily on Hazel’s mind.
There are some scenes found in the deleted scenes section of the DVD that I believe shouldn’t have been cut; like them selling the old swing (hilarious, YouTube it now,) and Hazel reading the impromptu red wheelbarrow poem. Aside from a few small scene changes and cuts that could’ve complicated the plot for those who haven’t poured over the book for hours upon end, the film stuck faithfully to the novel.
Overall the film was tear-jerkingly good, any John Green fan will look back with a glisten in their eyes at the memories. However, I still stand by my decision that Green, and Boone should’ve had the guts to end it mid-sentence. Don’t forget a pack of tissues; weeper or not you’re going to need them.