Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars Review

Let it never been said that I don't venture out into unexplored territories. Me and the whole "Teen novel adaptation" craze have had our ups and downs. I really enjoyed Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and I respect The Hunger Games for at least being a very well handled series with a solid plot. And then we have my experiences with the Twilight franchise and how that alone can color my perceptions on the whole sub genre. In my eyes, most teen novels that get made into movies feature an unusual element of fiction inside of them, like vampires, witches, aliens, etc, and links that with a romance plot in order to tell a story that teenage girls would find captivating, but make their book stand out against all the other books. Read my teen romance novel because it has aliens in it! But here, we have a very realistic (by Hollywood standards), adaptation of the popular teen romance novel, The Fault in Our Stars, and we get to see first hand if it's another Twilight or not.

Hazel Grace has cancer. She's had cancer since she was 13 and she's terminal. She's going to die eventually because of it, and so she mostly stays reclusive from people because of the disease. However, when at a support group that she's forced to go to, she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor that starts to fall in love with her. They bond, he gives her inspiration, and the closer they become, the closer they start to bond over an author named Peter Van Houghton, who wrote a novel that they both think is really damned good. So against the odds, they journey to Amsterdam to meet him and for Hazel to get answers to the novel that got her through her first bout with cancer.

When making a romance film, it's very tricky to incorporate cancer into the mix for one very important reason. When cancer is introduced, we expect the worst. From the very beginning, a cloud of doom is hanging over each character's head in the same way that Romeo and Juliet had a cloud hanging over their heads. The worst is going to happen, it's just a matter of when and how invested are we going to be with the characters by that point. Because of that, it's very important to spend time with these characters and enjoy the good times with them because lord knows that those are most likely going to be the only good time we'll have with them. It's a somber and solemn affair when things start to go from moderately good to despair. And I liked it.

Augustus and Hazel make a really sweet couple.
I liked when this movie had very uplifting and happy moments behind it, not because of the fact that it's going to come crumbling down, but because they were genuinely happy and sweet. Each character was charming, with the exception of Augustus's narcissism in the beginning of the movie. Once I got over that, both main characters seemed sweet and nice for each other. They had little relationship quirks, they spent time together, they had dates, we saw them being a couple. What's most important though was that each character was not defined by their disease. It could have been a pity story of watching two people with cancer spend time with each other and focus on only the cancer, but instead the focus of the movie was that these were teenagers in love. The cancer was an afterthought and did not define who they were.

That's what makes this movie great. It's a love movie first, and an inspirational movie second. I personally have never read the book this movie was based on, nor do I wish too, but from what I can gather, the same is true in the book. The majority of the chapters focus on Augustus and Hazel's relationship first, and everything else later. I know I probably sound like a broken record right now, but you have no idea how relieving it is to come across a movie that sets out the be a straight up love story for teenagers with any obvious teenage elements.

That's one of the reasons why the Twilight series is so reviled by people that are not teenage girls (besides the submissive and horrible messages it sends out). It's a love story that, yeah was okay, but the extra elements added to the movie to make it interesting defined the movie, and those elements were awful. People are still raving against Twilight for sparkling vampires and for giving vampires Super Saiyan powers that would make Dracula roll his eyes. The romance wasn't handled well and the "hook" was handled even more poorly. The Fault in Our Stars though says "Here's a romance movie about people with cancer, but that's not what makes them them. They're people first." There's a great line in the beginning of the movie asks Hazel what her story is and Hazel starts to talk about her cancer. Augustus stops her and says "No, I'm asking about you, not your cancer." That's what I'm talking about.

Not pictured: Superman's space ship flying by in the night sky
Then we have the more serious and definitely depressing moments of the movie. Yes they're people first, but cancer has a tendency to make itself know. After a gripping scene in a gas station, the movie becomes tragic and morose with everyone on the slow path to emotional devastation. Every character that we've come to know becomes affected by the last third of the movie, and if you're emotionally weak, it would be hard not to shed a tear in sympathy. But instead of having us cry because bad things are happening, we're crying because we don't want to see bad things happen to Hazel and Augustus. They don't deserve to suffer to the extent that they are, but by the invisible hand of fate, they are marked with an expiration date. When the trigger is finally pulled, there was nary a dry eye in the theatre. I personally did not cry, but it gave me a sinking feeling in my core watching this ending.

Special mention goes out to Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace, who delivers a sweet but relatable person that we all would want to be friends with and get to know. She makes corny and hokey dialogue come across as charming and has you feel for what she's going though. Another mention goes out to Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houghton, who doesn't play a significant role in the movie does deliver an exceptionally uncomfortable scene where he shows just how world weary he is. I don't want to spoil it, but he came across as a truly insensitive person that really deserves to be punched.

The Fault in Our Stars will most likely make a monstrous amount of money at the box office, and it really should. It's kind, caring, sympathetic, surprisingly funny, and most importantly, romantic. By the very end of the movie, I could fully believe that these two people loved each other no matter what happened to them. Through thick and thin, Hazel Grace and Augustus were a young couple that fought against cancer, but most importantly loved each other. It's believable. It's compassionate. Above all else, it's just a really good movie. Don't even consider it a teenage movie. On it's own, it's just a great movie that can stand toe to toe with some of the bigger releases of the year in terms of quality and even surpass a few of them. I give The Fault in Our Stars a well deserved 4 our of 5.


Young love really does warm an old, lifeless heart like mine!

No comments:

Post a Comment