The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
June 8, 2014 10:49 AM - Subscribe

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.
posted by mathowie (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(I liked the book quite a bit, but I'm not a fanatical devotee of it.)

Shailene Woodley is phenomenal in the movie, just really fantastic in a role that demands a lot of tough emotions. Laura Dern is also great, the bright, optimistic mother sometimes on the verge of cracking from the strain, trying to keep on a bright face.

I really liked how real the adults' reactions, often in the background of a shot, were -- amused and indulgent approval of the teenaged lovebirds, for example. One of the strengths of the movie is that while it is a teen romance, everyone in the movie knows it's a teen romance -- even Hazel and Augustus, who start the movie by making fun of Isaac and his girlfriend. While the relationship is heightened because of their cancer, the movie (and its characters) seem to recognize their relationship as puppy love -- which it considers a real, true love! But doesn't mistake (as teen romances often do) puppy love for mature love. To me, as an adult watching the movie, that gave the movie a lot of its power, that it gave teenaged love the gravitas it deserves without pretending it was an adult relationship. That always rings so false to me; this movie "felt" how I remember feeling at that age.

I thought the male characters, compared to Hazel and her mother, were a bit two-dimensional. The dad is a bit of a Platonic ideal of dad-ness, and Augustus doesn't really have faults -- he's more a blank slate onto which teenaged girls can project their own desires. But that also felt somewhat true to me, that teenagers project a lot of ideas about love onto their boyfriends, and that Hazel would be really deeply entangled with her mom, and less so with her dad.

I'm sort-of curious how the movie is for someone who hasn't read the book, because it's a bit hard to judge how some things might come across if you didn't already know what they were about. I probably wouldn't have started crying quite so early on.

It's a 2-hour-5-minute movie. I made it 5 minutes in before the tears started rolling and cried for the next two solid hours. It was the most pure example in the genre of "tearjerker" I have ever seen. (When I left after the movie, I stuffed my used kleenexes/weeping napkins into my empty theater soda cup, and it filled the cup to the top.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:02 AM on June 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I also thought, there were a LOT of scenes that managed to walk the knife-edge of awkwardness but not quite topple into cringe-inducing, but I held my breath in case they might make me cringe -- Augustus meeting the dad, Hazel talking to the author (both times) -- and I think that was very well done, and also reflective of how being a teenager feels a lot of the time.

But I haven't seen anyone else mention that so maybe it was just me. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2014

For months, I kept seeing online quotes from Shailene Woodley that said things like, My religion is the Earth, man. I believe in trees" or "I first heard about the benefits of eating clay from a taxi driver" or "I’ve always sort of wondered what it’d be like kissing my brother" or "Another thing I like to do is give my vagina a little vitamin D." I kept making a mental note to check out her comedy, because I honestly and sincerely assumed she was an alternative comedian, someone who'd slot in between Sarah Silverman and Maria Bamford. I cannot tell you how flummoxed I was to learn she is a real person who really says and means these things.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:18 PM on June 8, 2014

I saw it today, and I think Eyebrows McGee you put a lot of what I feel into words. I felt Augustus was a little bit more fleshed out in the book, but not very deeply. But Ansel Elgort's performance was also quite good, and during the eulogy scene (OMG DROWNING IN TEARS), I realized that hey, he's human, and he deserves to have people care about him and miss him even if he is kind of a manic pixie dream boy.

I hella cried at the movie at the same points I cried in the books: all the scenes with her mom, which I was expecting but I was not expecting them to throw out the "You can go whenever you're ready" flashback right near the beginning!! Jeez, I about projectile cried on the lady in front of me right then.

I am a jaded old person who works in cancer research, so I am kind of hardened to cancer deaths. So I don't think this is the greatest love story ever told, but it is pretty emotionally true.

John Green has been saying that stories with people with cancer have a hard time getting made. However, I will note that in the "First Look" B.S. before the movie and the previews there were at least 2 stories showing young people who were gravely ill (coming this fall to ABC Family!). So I guess now this will be a thing?
posted by sarahnade at 8:00 PM on June 8, 2014

I'm sort-of curious how the movie is for someone who hasn't read the book, because it's a bit hard to judge how some things might come across if you didn't already know what they were about. I probably wouldn't have started crying quite so early on.

I'm not familiar with either the book, or really the YA genre for that matter. I wasn't even aware that the internet has a name for this sort of story, calling them "sick fics".

I appreciated seeing the movie as something new, something I usually wouldn't watch. But the story itself was fairly predictable, especially in seeing when something bad would happen or even the ending itself. I have read that Green wanted to avoid the typical cancer story, so I am curious to to hear what does make it so different or better than others in its genre.

Originally, I thought Eglort (who played Gus Waters) was just terrible. Nearly every scene in the first half of the film is him saying something he thinks sounds cool or smart (but which is actually kinda cringy) and then cracking a smirk. His demeanor and even a bit of his looks made me think that he was like the son of James Franco and Michael Cera. But, I've read internet commentary that this was intentional, to make him sound like a teenager trying to sound smart. So, now, I'm kind of on the fence on whether Elgort was acting as a teenager trying way too hard to put on airs or if he's just trying way too hard.

William Defoe's role was mostly good, but thought it was a little heavy handed to constantly emphasize that he's a drunk by having him drink from either a tumbler or a flask every time the camera cuts to him. I do agree that he is two-dimensional. His role is basically the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain, or even Blade Runner's Eldon Tyrell. Hazel and Gus go on a journey, seeking him out in order to find answers, maybe answers that would explain a little bit about their own short lives, but Defoe can't fulfill their wish.

The waiter, though. Man, I love Hercule Poirot, but I don't think he fits in this movie.
posted by FJT at 10:31 PM on June 8, 2014

I read the book and thought it was good, not altogether great. Some parts transitioned well to the movie, I thought the egg throwing scene was great and I was completly floored by Hazel climbing the steps at the Anne Frank house. But most of the romance-y stuff fell pretty flat in the movie for me. The tone was just a little too earnest. I feel like if Hazel watched this movie she would be out of breath from rolling her eyes after 45 minutes.

Also, I really like the parents in both the film and the book, but man the guy playing Hazel's dad did not turn in a good performance. I actually identified with the character a lot (hello, I feel so old and not like a teen), but the actor looked like he wandered in from a much worse made-for-cableTV version of this movie.
posted by dogwalker at 4:16 AM on June 9, 2014

I haven't read this book or seen the movie (will probably do either or both at some point when I feel like crying), but I read the New Yorker article about John Green, and between it and what I've picked up about the plot of this story, I'm intrigued about what I gather is the Willem Defoe role in the movie. The New Yorker article paints John Green as this youngish, personable, hyper-communicative author who has a somewhat over the top connection/availability to his young fans, including young fans with terminal illnesses. Meanwhile this story includes a reclusive alcoholic author (of books about teens with cancer?) who is the opposite of all that? Does that come across as some sort of meta commentary from John Green on John Green, or am I misunderstanding all of this?
posted by yarrow at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2014

I can't find the video now, but in one of them John says that, no matter what he had in mind while he was writing the book, what the reader takes away is just as important/more important.

It's been a long time since I read the book, and I don't think I will see the movie until it's out on disc, but the reason that the author is reclusive/alcoholic has less to do with being John meta on John and more about the message(s) of the story.

John posts videos every week on youtube. He and his brother take turns, posting videos about Life every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Both of them are deep into education (John focuses mostly on History, Literature, and Random Facts. His brother Hank focuses mostly on the sciences) and charity.

I wonder if anyone has done an epic thread on them on the blue..
posted by royalsong at 10:50 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I caught TFIOS (which, apparently, must be pronounced as a word) with my daughter, age 16, and one of her friends. I liked it, but more importantly, they loved it. My only disappointment was that the movie completely left out scenes that would have served as foreshadowing of Gus's relapse. In the book, Hazel and her mom overhear Gus arguing with his parents about the trip to Amsterdam; you're meant to think they're being protective or that maybe they aren't supportive of his relationship with Hazel, but in hindsight you realize they didn't want him to put off chemo. There's also a moment in the book in which Gus winces in pain when Hazel leans into him, and for me it was a warning that something was wrong. In the movie, the revelation that his cancer had returned was just so out of the blue that it felt especially manipulative (and in a movie about kids with cancer, that's saying a lot).

High praise for Laura Dern's portrayal of mom. I loved it when she ran to her daughter's side wearing only a towel just because Hazel cried out (and not from pain), then completely brushed aside the fact that she'd been soaking in the tub and continued to listen to her daughter rather than take care of her own needs.

royalsong: I've seen the Greens on the Blue more than once. Here's a recent post related to their production of Crash Course, here's one from 2013, and another from 2012.
posted by kbar1 at 11:01 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Saw it with my wife over the weekend. I enjoyed it!

1. Most scenes didn't seem overtly manipulative in the emotions-pulling department; I noted that the director even had the good taste to silence the music in as few (but not all) key moments.

2. Not having read the book, I kind of wish the film had explored Hazel's disappoint about meeting the author just a touch more? I don't know, that part seemed a little incomplete but I guess it isn't really the main point of the story.

3. I agree that Gus's character is perhaps just a little bit too wish-fulfillment personified to be believed, but it doesn't detract from the movie very much.

4. It sort of sounded like everyone in the theater had allergies. Lots of sniffling throughout. A bit of a raw experience in that way.

6. The music was unremarkable, but nice.

The movie also triggered my wife's hypochondria in a fairly upsetting way and I would not recommend it as a date movie for folks with cancer fears/recent health-trauma.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2014

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