Last weekend, I was lucky enough to get invited to a “Top Secret Tumblr TFIOS Event”. I had no idea what it was, and so what to expect.
Turns out, what it was, was a chance to watch a live stream of the Tumblr (and Yahoo and Fox)-sponsored Press Conference with a bunch of awesome nerdfighters, and then! John Green and Nat Wolff (Isaac) swung by and said hello.
We got to see the movie.
As always, there are spoilers ahead.
For those of you who have not read The Fault in Our Stars, it is a Very Sad Book.
John Green (whom I’m sure you’ve heard of unless this is the first book blog you’ve ever read, in which case, kudos! Welcome to the fold.) is a prolific writer of the nerdy teen. TFiOS definitely has two of those nerdy teens at its center. The major difference between these nerdy teens and his other creations? Well, these two are kids-with-cancer teens.
(… Very Sad Book.)
You might remember when the first trailer dropped, I was not particularly excited by it. So, while I was definitely excited (very, very excited) to see the movie, my expectations were not the highest. It helped that I was seeing it with people who so obviously loved the book and its writer. One of the best moments I witnessed that day was when these teen readers screamed louder for John Green than for Ansel Elgort.
We settled down to watch the movie, and they’d provided popcorn and candy, but no tissues to everyone’s chagrin.
So, let me start off with this, I liked the movie. I thought it was a really, really great adaptation. Shailene Woodley surprised me with how much I ended up liking her as Hazel Grace. There’s a moment in the very beginning where she is arguing that just because she reads the same book over and over does not mean that she’s depressed. And she sells it with the perfect amount of teenaged disdain, it immediately forces the realization of ‘this is not going to be a normal kids-with-cancer movie’ upon the viewer.
Through no fault of his own, Ansel Elgort didn’t fare quite as well with his portrayal of Augustus Waters. The way Augustus speaks works so well on the page, but hearing it out loud brings a level of ridiculousness to it. He’s a teenage boy talking about being afraid of oblivion, or unlit cigarettes being metaphors, and for the most part it comes off okay. But every third grand statement he makes causes some eye-rolling. I won’t lie. Just a tad too earnest to be believable. Ansel is at his best when Augustus is at his most vulnerable, after his cancer returns. There’s a scene late in the film when a panicked Gus calls Hazel in the middle of the night because he can’t make it home from a gas station where he just wanted to do something normal and buy a pack of cigarettes. It is heart breaking. And not because he’s dying, but because he’s been so strong throughout the movie, and the disparity between this Augustus and the confident Augustus is so stark. Woodley and Elgort are great at embodying kids who are honestly just out of their depth. “Don’t call my parents,” Gus pleads, sobbing and drooling and so in pain. But Hazel knows there’s nothing she can do without adult help.
The supporting cast of parents and friends are great. And special call outs for Laura Dern and Nat Wolff. While reading, I was mostly invested in Hazel and Augustus, but with Dern as Hazel’s mother, her grief is just as potent at Hazel’s. And Nat Wolff’s Isaac brings some comic relief to what is otherwise the saddest movie I’ve ever seen. Ever.
Here is where we come to an interesting point. It’s a great adaptation, but I’m not sure TFiOS is a particularly amazing film. It’s a good movie. It really is. And if you love the book, you will love this movie. They’ve made sure of it. Willem DaFoe’s (somewhat stunty) casting as Peter Van Houten is perfect, every one of John Green’s lines coming out of Augustus’ mouth is what you’ve been waiting for, and you’re ready to cry at the emotional wrench this story throws at your head. That being said, watching TFiOS is a little bit like watching a way, way better written Nicholas Sparks movie. I’m not sure that the movie and the characters will stick with you as deeply if you weren’t already acquainted with them.
However, I’m interested in hearing what the non-book readers think of this movie. Because I think, if I had gone in blind, I would be pretty upset. You spend the entire movie ready for Hazel’s death, not Augustus’. I wonder if it will feel like the movie is pulling a fast one on the viewers for those poor unprepared souls.
I’d weep for them, but I’m all out of tears. Because again: Saddest. Movie. Ever.