Just okay: Reviewing The Fault in Our Stars

 

Director: Josh Boone
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Natt Wolf, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek

(WARNING: Some spoilers ahead. Tread with caution if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie.)

The book was better than the movie.

There! I’ve said it. Don’t hate me.

The Fault In Our Stars, adapted from a novel written by John Green, follows the story of cancer-stricken teenager, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley). She meets a cancer survivor, Augustus Waters, in a support group her parents forced her to attend because she is “depressed.” They fall in love in that way that will make you fall in love with them as well; the threats to their beautiful existence being cancer and the death it may bring, particularly in Hazel’s case, considering that she was very sick at the time, and Augustus was in remission. However, after amazing things have happened, Augustus tells Hazel that his PET scan “lit up like a Christmas tree,” this being the twist to the entire plot. It was Augustus who was dying, after all.

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The movie had snappy and witty dialogue, which is expected. My favorite line however was omitted from the movie, which was delivered by Isaac: “But I believe in true love, you know? I don’t believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does.” In the film, Isaac became more of a comic relief, with the eulogy as his only significant line.

Kiss

The script stayed true to the source material, however, watching the film can make one realize how simple everything is, how simple the plot is. Hazel was also the narrator in the movie, but the different rules of the medium required a different type of storytelling. In the book, we are introduced more to her thoughts, and we can learn more about the characters from it. This was significantly absent from the film, and we are treated instead to the plain storyline with a twist in the end. The twist was surprising for those who haven’t read the book, but the fact that it had a twist wasn’t at all surprising.

christmas tree

Another thing they did right was the casting. It was the perfect cast; Ansel Elgort as Augustus was especially spectacular. He could be a future mainstay at romantic comedies. Laura Dern as Hazel’s mom was a delightful surprise. Are 90s stars making a comeback as parents or siblings of lead characters in modern movies? If they are, it’s actually a good move. And let’s not forget the perpetually scary yet awesome Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten.

With regard to the soundtrack, some are hits while the others are misses. It would be a bit much to say that it is this generation’s Breakfast Club, because nothing could come close to “Don’t You Forget About Me.” But the soundtrack of The Fault In Our Stars is an ambitious attempt, and it doesn’t fail in delivering a generally great line-up that is not hard to love. It can please everybody – from an indie music lover to someone who isn’t really into that stuff and just wants to have a good listen.

So why was the book better than the movie? It succeeded in something that the film didn’t: it humanized cancer effectively. It told us something different from what we normally know about the illness: dreaded chemotherapy, depressing hair loss, imminent death, clinical trials, fighting for survival, tears, and loved ones. There was still life above it all, or separate from it all. Your illness does not define you, in the same way that other matters also shouldn’t. And you always have a choice in how you want to live your life. Your illness, or other setbacks in life, will try to change you but it shouldn’t. You can learn from it, but it shouldn’t be who you are.

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In translating the story to fit the silver screen, focus was given to some things, and others less so. It was still big on emotion, which was furthered by superb performances. It’s either that or the people in my row at the cinema are just ugly sobbing their way through the movie and it kind of got to me. It was heartbreaking and heartfelt at the same time, in the same manner that the book is.

It’s no Clueless or The Breakfast Club, but it’s a nice addition to the teen movie genre. Perhaps it won’t make the canon, but it’s worth a watch anyway. It lived up to the hype for fans, but it might have been a letdown for those who aren’t to begin with.

The verdict? It was okay. But it was just okay.

-J

MNL Film Club Score: 1.75

P.S. I’m waiting for a Looking for Alaska film adaptation

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