Last week, I shared my thoughts on John Green’s very popular YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars. While I enjoyed the love story that blossomed between Hazel and Gus and the tragedy that separated them, the novel didn’t completely blow my mind as it had for so many others. Maybe I’m too old, I thought. Maybe I’m not reading closely enough, I thought. Maybe I’m just a cyborg completely incapable of forming an emotional attachment to this book, I thought.
Then I realized that last one just sounded completely insane and shook it off…and then something else occurred to me: Maybe this is one of those stories where I need to see it come alive onscreen to really connect with it. Maybe I need more than just words on a page; maybe I need a visual representation of this author’s work to send me over the edge and into full-fledged Nerdfighteria. (And if you have absolutely no idea what the heck Nerdfighters are, you should really click here.)
I guess it’d be a good idea to go and check out the film, I thought. So, after several attempts to make plans to see it with friends and family fell through, I asked The Hubby to watch Joshua and drove myself to the movie theater.
You know, for a movie that fans have said they sobbed through, it’s probably not the greatest idea to walk into the theater without a shoulder to cry on. But there I found myself, sitting alone in an empty theater with 20 minutes before the lights dimmed. (In defense of the film, I attended a 5:30 show that was advertised on Moviefone but apparently not on the showtimes board in the theater itself — I’d be willing to bet that many moviegoers were completely unaware of the showing!)
I may not have had living, breathing accompaniment with me, but at least I had my tissues. And you better believe that I had the pouch sitting on top of my bag in the empty seat next to me for the entire duration of the movie! (Because I figured that hey, it’s better to be prepared in advance than to go scrambling through my bag with tear-blurred eyesight and a major case of the sniffles in a pitch-black theater! Am I right?)
By the time the lights finally dimmed, there were about 20 of us in the theater, and I was the only person foolish enough to be there without a friend or a date or something. Que sera sera. After mostly forgettable previews, the 20th Century Fox logo appeared on the screen before panning up to a star-studded nighttime sky and a voiceover provided by our Hazel, Shailene Woodley. As she spoke, I forgot that I was wearing a watch on my wrist (as I’m notorious for checking the time throughout movie screenings) and that I was supposed to be watching this film for the sake of writing a review for my blog. I was immediately, fully engrossed in the story and the performances. I smirked when Gus and Hazel made eye contact for the first time; I giggled as they bonded playfully over An Imperial Affliction; I fumed at Peter Van Houten (played brilliantly by Willem Dafoe) for acting like a “douchepants” (Hazel’s words, not mine!); I (silently) cheered when Hazel, painfully out of breath, made her way up every step to the top of the Anne Frank House; I empathized with their first sexual experience; I suffered along with Gus when he revealed the resurgence of osteosarcoma to Hazel on a bench in Amsterdam. (Because “pain demands to be felt,” right?)
And somehow, I failed to cry when Hazel’s parents received the phone call notifying them of Gus’ passing. I didn’t celebrate when he died, of course; my heart was completely broken for both of them. But that packet of Puffs remained on their perch until the moment the movie ended.
Maybe I am a cyborg.
My one-word review: Powerful.
And to elaborate: I would be shocked if Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort don’t win award after award for their portrayals of Hazel and Gus, respectively. I was left wondering just how far each of them went to prepare for these roles; I’m sure they met with and talked to cancer survivors and shadowed doctors on patient visits. Each of them made their characters feel completely three-dimensional, like they truly understood what it was like to live with these diseases ravaging their bodies. For me, though, it was the love story that elevated the film adaptation to a completely different level. Shailene and Ansel are young, but they’ve definitely experienced first love by this point in their lives, and it showed in their performances. They were awkward, shy, eloquent, and achingly beautiful as two individuals — two “grenades” — colliding as a couple and exploding into a force stronger than anything their friends or families could ever have seen coming. By the time the lights came back up in the theater, I had experienced “all the feels”, as the kids say. Every emotion I could possibly have experienced, aside from heartbroken sobbing, I did experience. I may not have cried, but I connected. I get it now. I understand why this book is so popular and so relatable and so perfect for so many people. The book may not have been the best book ever for me, but the movie certainly took me to another place.
Final thoughts: I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I never do — and that’s because it’s never true, in my opinion — but I have to say it today: The movie was better than the book. The movie simply blew the book out of the water, at least for me. I’m dying to know if you agree with me. Share your thoughts in the comments!