Bottled Stars in The Fault in Our Stars: A Movie Review ofsomesort

I  crawl back to this tiny space I created in the vast multitude of the Interwebs to talk about a movie, and not a book. But dear reader, if you do exist, kindly understand that this movie is important to me because I like John Green and this book too, and I need to talk about this movie.

There’ll be spoilers ahead, movie spoilers, and I’m not going to talk about the plot.

I was not blind to faults of The Fault in Our Stars, tah book: Cancer, being its chosen narrative device, is sure to wring tears out of its reader, no matter how much spin you put into it; it was 25 dead hairs away from being emotionally manipulative, but I loved Hazel and Augustus. I truly, firmly believe that the strength of The Fault in Our Stars is in its characters: John Green created such strong, memorable characters that carried the weight of what was otherwise a Cancer Porn novel.

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I like my heroine plucky with a fondness for dark humor, and I couldn’t believe that my Movie Hazel was watered down–stripped of her spunk, and edging towards a misunderstood, whiny teenager. Book Hazel was dark and a bit angry, which is a twist I liked in John Green’s characterization while Movie Hazel was too, huh, depressed.

I had my misgivings about Shailene Woodley, only because I haven’t seen her in anything before TFiOs and she strikes me as a JLaw redux, but she breathed life (Bad pun, sorry!) into Hazel. I fell in love with her face, “slowly, then all at once” (Sorry! It was there!!) with her barely there make up and nuanced and controlled acting. Woodley, I liked the way you folded and tucked your long legs, and I loved your ugly crying moments; your vulnerability was so tender, that I’ll probably even forgive you for your toned body despite being unable to take a flight upstairs without courting Death.

And of course, there was my adorkablepants, 1.4-legged Augustus Waters—the guy I almost traded my Percy Jackson blackened heart for. Like with Woodley, I knew nothing about Ansel Elgort except maybe that he was really tall and his smile was disarming. Basically, I was predisposed to liking Gus, but I admit that I feared Augustus Waters may only be good on paper, and maybe an irritating, cocky, overtly romantic douchepants in real life. I mean, if someone tells the cigarette in  mouth metaphor to my face, I’d probably snort and roll my eyes at this pretentious prick. My insides squirmed during that scene, and I applaud Woodley for holding her ground and not kicking that gorgeous boy at his shins.

My boy, Elgort, was really charming, and I fought a difficult battle to keep my dignified look as a woman (yesss) of my 20s and not swoon whenever he outwitted our resident smartass Hazel. He stares(d) (gazes? looks lovingly?) well, too. But Elgort couldn’t make me feel his pain. He was guarded, conscious to fully display the downfall of Sick Book Gus. I was bawling and clutching my sheets when Gus plummeted to his darkest pits in the gas station, but Movie Gus struggled to keep his dignity as an actor, and not as a Sick Movie Gus. Woodley was amazing and affecting in portraying her panic and helplessness at saving the love of her life from Cancer and mostly from himself, but that was Gus’s moment. It could be the director’s oversight, but I weep for what could have been a fantastic sobfest, had Elgort been able to tug at my all too willing heartstrings.

I also grieve for the poetry scene in the plane that was cut all together, when Augustus had his big speech about being in love with Hazel and his confession being a shout to oblivion. This is not me being a book-to-film purist, but, hear me out: The moment in book felt raw and honest. Hazel received his confession with an exasperated sigh, and I love, love that Gus could not do anything but to stare at the window and suffer. Their proximity, the forced confinement of the flight,  and timing created a tension that was almost palpable.

Their dinner was a factory for romance—beautiful Amsterdam, beautiful people, beautiful lights, and even bottled stars for minors felt romantic too: This perfect setting sapped the romance of its ardor, and the underlying struggle they both were fighting—you know, the dying ON each other thing. While Movie Confession was, I admit, suited Augustus’s love for the grandeur, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the Flight Confession. But then again, time constraints yadda yadda, I understand. Don’t mind me.

*sigh*

The movie was not without its strong supporting cast: Nat Wolff (Isaac) was refreshing to watch, and he only made me more excited for the Paper Towns movie in the works. You will be fantastic as the dogged, stubborn Quentin, and I will root for you, you charming blind boy.  Laura Dern’s (Hazel’s mom) wild eyes every time she looked at Hazel bothered and suffocated me, which I’m pretty sure meant she did a great job at portraying Hazel’s mom, but, you know, annoyed me. (You get me, reader, right? Right?) Sam Trammell’s (Hazel’s Dad) quiet, reassuring beats as Hazel’s caring, awkward Dad were affecting, especially at the airport arrival scene which had me tearing up a bit. Willem Dafoe played (The) Peter Van Houten to the hilt, the frustration Hazel and Gus were feeling towards him became contagious to the audience–I wanted a Scotch for myself just to throw it at his face.

Worth noting though: It was almost comical that the title was not explained in the movie, which actually came from one of Van Houten’s letters philosophizing (the story does a loooot of this) Hazel and Gus as lovers, and how, “the fault, dear Brutus, was not in our stars; but in ourselves.”

Through all the nitpicking that I did, it may be hard to believe that I did like the movie. My favorite scene has to be Isaac Hulk Smashing Gus’ trophies and thrashing his room, while the two love sick (This movie review is full of bad puns!) teenagers were flirting. It was funny and clever; the disparity between the two unfolding stories, Isaac’s heartbreak (wonderfully played, Wolff) and the blossoming romance of Hazel and Gus, was the book’s dark humor at its best.

I also found its ending of Hazel and Gus’ “Okay? Okay.” better fitting than the book’s “I do.” And I believe that John Green would approve. Right? Right. (I found my Always? Always! too! I only need someone to… Right.)

And talk, I did. It was still magical to find an almost faithful movie adaptation of an important book in my life, especially from the tragedy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and the murder that was Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (May the Percy Jackson movie franchise rest in peace. Please.) The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie adaptation still tops my very short list, but I am still grateful for The Fault in Our Stars movie, for that “little infinity” in my hopefully not numbered days of watching book-to-film adaptations.

 

** I watched The Fault in Our Stars on 2 June at the press screening, Glorietta 4. Thanks to my awesomesauce office mates. I will watch it again tomorrow, sans expectations but with my heart on my sleeves~

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