The Sad Truth About 'The Fault In Our Stars'
By Chris Azzopardi
Originally printed 6/9/2014 (Issue 2223 - Between The Lines News)
If I weren't such a sucker for a good cry, I'd probably like "The Fault in Our Stars" a lot less than I did. In fact, part of me was enraptured with the screen adaptation of John Green's widely adored 2012 novel, ruminating the effect of terminal illness on young love, long before I nearly cried myself dry amidst a theater full of weeping tweens.
I hadn't read Green's novel, the basis for the Josh Boone-directed film (which, by the way, I hear is faithful to its source material), but I knew I was bound to lose it much like I do when that Sarah McLachlan animal PSA comes on.
The truth is, I like to cry. I like to feel something, to surrender my breaking heart. It's my favorite catharsis.
When I finally saw "The Fault in Our Stars," it incited a rash of feels. The bittersweet ache I expected, those love tingles you get when you first fall for someone, and also that sad hopelessness I imagine you experience when you know it won't last. Not because you don't want it to, but because it's out of your hands. You're dying.
And so it is in Boone's film, the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley, who impressed me in last year's "The Spectacular Now"), a 17-year-old who's beat cancer even when her parents didn't think it possible. Now succumbing to her illness, and to cope with her imminent death, she drops in at a support group for cancer kids, one of which is the charmingly suave Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort).
Precocious with his bon mots and undeniably adorable, "Gus" is the Prince Charming of cancer stories. He's his own star, further proved by the horned-up girls who spazzed with audible delight at the screening I attended, applauding his initial appearance and then unleashing "ohhs" during every romantic gesture thereafter. (When he lost his shirt, revealing boy nip, let's just say I couldn't have been more thankful to be in a dark theater with these girls.)
Hazel isn't so easily won over, but when the walls she's built come tumbling down with every Gus come-on, when she realizes his steadfast pursuit and deep affection for her, it's not so hard to see why impressionable tweens adore Augustus. I mean, the guy uses his cancer "wish" to take her to Amsterdam so she can finally meet the author who wrote the book that has them both obsessed (with typical Gus snark, he teases that she used hers on a trip to Disney - she did). A cranky drunkard unwilling to divulge the answers they seek, the writer (Willem Dafoe) isn't at all what they expected, setting the stage for a moralistic turn of events, a mawkish play-out and - not even joking - a visit to the Anne Frank House.
I cried because I should be crying - who wouldn't at the mere idea of two people bound by their life-changing illness? For me, it resonated before I even really met Hazel and Gus (you can tell by how many times I played the soundtrack before I saw the movie).
I wanted so badly to feel every moment of their' "little infinity," and it's no fault of the stars that I couldn't. Woodley and Elgort are both sincere and believable, and their chemistry is warmly manifested. You see, I actually liked a lot of Boone's film, but even my Sarah McLachlan-affected sentimentality has a threshold.
Be it with hokey montages or melodramatic musical sequences, I was too busy during the final third being manipulated by such obvious tear-jerking platitudes. It all felt too far removed from reality. My heart was on strings, and though susceptible to the emotional pressure of "The Fault in Our Stars," I was very aware that I was being played like a marionette.
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