I wanted to see Begin Again this week, but all we got was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and as I previously mentioned, Planet of the Apes has overstayed its welcome. So my brother and I decided to go to a film from a few weeks ago: The Fault in Our Stars. I havn’t read the John Green novel (not because I wouldn’t, I just haven’t gotten around to it) but I knew it would be sad.
Two teens with cancer meet at a support group and fall in love.
I’m not opposed to sad movies per se. I’m opposed to tearjerkers. For those of you who don’t go to a lot of dramas, sad movies are like The Boy in the Sriped Pajamas. They’re all about conveying the reality of sad situations. Tearjerkers are like The Notebook. They’re all about hamfistedly slapping tears out of your face. This movie is the former.
Straight out of the gate, The Fault in Our Stars pulls no sadness punches. The main character, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is like: “Hi! I’m dying, and I have been since I was thirteen!” This is me going to doctor’s appointments and reading the same book over and over and watching crappy reality TV on my mom’s couch and being dragged to a Jesus-based support group because having cancer is depressing.
Hi I’m Bob, and I’ve been in so many doctor’s waiting rooms that I had time to rug-hook a 20 ft mat of Jesus.
At Reluctant Cancer Support Group Hazel meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) and his buddy Isaac (Nat Wolff). Gus has one leg and Isaac’s blind, so there’s no weirdness about Hazel dragging around an oxygen tank in a backpack. They hang out, flirt, goof around, and throw eggs mean people’s cars. They’re just normal teenagers… who happen to have cancer.
Ha ha, and if you get mad at cripples for egging your car your neighbors will think you’re heartless!
Gus is into Hazel right away but it takes Hazel a while to let him in, because (and I’m paraphrasing Hazel here) they’re all bunch of water balloons filled with sadness who could burst and drown their entire circle of acquaintance in tears at any moment. Literally. We know and they know that the story ends in tears. The only question is: whose will they be?
And how many onions did they have to slice on set to keep the actors’ waterworks
flowing for the sad parts? Because WOW.
Hazel’s fears are a major obstacle to their romance and so is the fact that they’re both sick. Unlike most teen romances they don’t need Hazel’s parents (Sam Trammell and Laura Dern) to be overprotective. In fact, they’re cool with Hazel dating Gus.
Ha ha, don’t worry about condoms, sweetie. You’ll be dead soon anyway.
The movie can afford to have both sets of parents be totally cool with their romance because at any time one or both of them could be struck down in the middle of a date and (and this is something I find cruel and heartless) be stuck in the waiting room at the hospital while the love of their life is suffering because they’re not family.
HAZEL’S DAD (not even being mean): You should go home. I’ll tell her you were here.
If I put this in my mouth, will I look like James Dean?
Pretty soon they’re boyfriend and girlfriend and traveling to Amsterdam together to meet the author (Willem Dafoe) who wrote their favorite cancer novel. It ends without saying what happened to the people the main character left behind. Hazel’s worried about what will happen to her parents when she’s gone, so it’s her mission in life to get that answer. And also to make smoochies in Anne Frank’s house, apparently.
I’d say it’s inappropriate, but Anne’s story was about doomed teenaged love too.
What makes the sadness in the The Fault in Our Stars so easy to digest is its honesty. It’s just a story that happens to be about people who knew their expiration dates. It doesn’t kick open your brain and trample around inside looking for heartstrings to pull. This is good, because as many Nicholas Sparks movies have discovered, my brain is wired differently – my heartstrings are connected to my gag reflex.
NICHOLAS SPARKS: Cry! Cry you bastard!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really liked The Fault in Our Stars, even though I’m not normally a fan of the sad movie genre (mostly because it’s been taken over by tripe, but I digress). The Fault in Our Stars is cute, funny, honest, engaging, enlightening, and yeah, also sad, but if you can handle sadness when you know it’s coming, you should watch this movie.