Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars | Pennies & Paper: Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars
About two weeks ago now, I went to go see The Fault in Our Stars with a good friend of mine. We went a few days after it came out, and the theatre was still very full, unsurprising given the $8.2 million earned Thursday night and overall $48 million made the first weekend. Also unsurprisingly, it made much more money than Tom Cruise's newest action-y thing, even though that had a budget of $178 million and TFiOS had "only" $12 million. (I was a little surprised that it did better than Maleficent.) Again unsurprisingly, I sobbed nearly the entire last thirty minutes of the movie, and a couple times before then as well.
First off, I love John Green. I have read the book this movie was based on, also titled The Fault in Our Stars, three times. I cried endlessly each time--to me the sign of a great book. I've read every John Green book; I watch Vlogbrothers; I consider myself a Nerdfighter; and I've followed the creation of this film from signing to premiere. I have quite a few thoughts about the film, although I will try very hard not to compare it to the book! I do have to say, this is one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen. Be warned: minor spoilers ahead!
The Fault in Our Stars is both a story of romance and survival. The two main characters, Hazel and Guz, are young people who are dealing with lives affected by cancer. After forming a friendship, romance comes soon after, but the realities of cancer are never far away.
I thought the casting, characterization, and handling of the subject matter was all very well done. The directors, writers, and producers did not shy away (much) from the realities of an illness like cancer. They show that it kills, and they show that it's not a calm, easy death. In the book, Hazel's voice is very prominent, and well-placed voiceovers helped maintain that personality. Without Hazel's voice, the film would have been rather dry and some of the best ideas from the book would have been lost. I often dislike voiceovers, but in this case the more the better!
This film is important not only in that it deals with cancer, but that it shows a teenager's experiences are just as serious as an adult's. More specifically, it brings great diversity into the realm of films aimed at teenagers. It is a film made for young adults, but these are young adults dealing with things you mostly see in stories with adult characters: wearing a cannula 24/7, having a prosthetic leg, losing eyesight. But limited mobility does not hinder the plot at all, and in fact is often integral to it, such as the scene where Hazel lugs her oxygen tank up all of the steps in the Anne Frank House (and as someone who has been in the Anne Frank House, let me tell you, those stairs are killer for a healthy person).
I was particularly pleased with how Gus's prosthesis was handled. After introducing it when we meet Gus, it only appears in a few key scenes later on. I was worried that it would otherwise be ignored, but the actor did a wonderful job of moving like someone who actually has a prosthetic leg. My father makes prosthetic limbs, so perhaps I am a little more aware of how a fake leg moves and changes gait, but I'm happy to say that anyone seeing this film will get an accurate depiction whether they know it or not!
The few things I felt were lacking in the movie were included in the book, but I will try to not rant too much xD My primary concern was the lack of progression of Gus's illness. In the book, Hazel spends a lot of time describing how he changes, how he's less happy. We only get one major scene of Gus's illness in the movie. Granted, it is an important one and I was glad to see it kept in the film, but in hindsight it would have been a tad abrupt for someone who had not read the book, and may make his illnes seem surreal. Although, since the movie was two hours long, showing the full illness may have been a bit much! Also in relation to Gus, I was a little upset that Hazel never made the switch from calling him "Augustus" to using "Gus." John Green answered a question about this switch, noting that "Gus" was when the "manic pixie dream boy falls away and she comes to know and grapple with and love this fragile, desperate, beautiful boy," something I think is a very important distinction. My last main complaint is that, in the book, Hazel reads a letter that includes the Shakespeare quote that inspired the title, but this does not happen in the movie. With such an abstract title, I feel that would have been nice to include. There were a few other minor issues--the swing set goes mysteriously missing in the movie whereas in the book they sell it, for example--but nothing horribly distracting.
Overall, it's a great movie, made even better if you have a little more information from the book. Not everyone reads, however, and the most important and groundbreaking aspects of the book definitely make their way into the film. If you have a heart at all (and I hope you do), keep tissues on hand, because you will almost definitely cry.
Have you seen The Fault in Our Stars or read the book? What did you think?