Rating: 5 tissues + 2 napkins
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Production: Temple Hill Entertainment
Runtime: 125 minutes
Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.
I have the very best friends in existence. A couple weeks ago, I got an urgent message from one of my local blogger friends to CALL IMMEDIATELY. When I called, he said he'd won tickets to the advanced screening for The Fault in Our Stars here in Dallas, and he wanted me to go. Our group got all dolled up, which was a lot of fun (although I knew I would have to be spare with the eye makeup because TFIOS, you guys. C'mon). Like with the Divergent screening, we were all forced to surrender our phones before we were allowed in so no theater selfies for us! I was sad only because I was reading on my phone, and I wasn't able to keep doing so before the movie started.
If there are lots of people in your theater (if you go on opening weekend, this will probably be you), you need to prepare that people are going to cheer for ALL THE THINGS such as: the title, Ansel's name, the first time Ansel is shown on screen, Ansel, Ansel, Ansel. I'm not joking. The good news is that after about five minutes, the cheering will subside.
It's been a long while since I've read TFIOS so I don't remember all the little details, but based on what I do remember, this is a pretty faithful adaptation. John is a really sharp, witty writer, and his lines translate really well from page to screen. You should also be prepared at riotous giggles and/or dreamy sighs and/or heavy sobbing for particularly note-worthy lines such as "Okay," any line from the trailer, or generally whenever Ansel opens his mouth.
I was really impressed with the cast. I've seen every single one of the main cast—with the exception of Nat—in other projects, but I loved how they became these characters. Shailene was not Tris. Ansel was not Caleb. Laura was not Ellie from Jurassic Park. Sam was not Sam Merlotte from True Blood. Willem was not the Green Goblin. Obviously Shailene and Ansel shine in these roles, which I think allow for even better acting than the action-packed Divergent (which I still love, don't worry). I think this movie will be the one at the top of their resumés for a long time because their acting is so spot on. They're not relying on world-building and action for the story but on the chemistry they have (and boy, do they have it!). And the supporting cast was equally wonderful. Nat transformed on screen from the loveswept sidekick to heartbroken and bitter dumpee. His delivery was completely on point no matter which role he was playing in any given scene. Laura and Sam were equal parts cool parents trying to give their daughter a real life, one with some independence and concerned parents trying to keep their daughter alive. They walked the line extraordinarily well. And then Willem sweeps in as the guy you want to like for Hazel and Gus's sake, but you just can't because he's an utterly despicable person. These six carry the movie just as well as any all-star and/or massive ensemble such as those for Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Ocean's Eleven.
One thing I LOVE about this film is the music. It's charming, quirky, whimsical and catchy. It doesn't overshadow any of the action but doesn't hide in the background either. Instead, the music and the acting complement one another as the music reflects whatever emotions are present and ramps up those emotions for the audience.
Those of you who have read TFIOS know that the story is divided into two parts: pre-Amsterdam and post-Amsterdam. You should prepare yourself for the fact that pre is mostly fun and funny and post is the part where you're just going to sob—loudly—for the rest of the film. That's not to say the pre doesn't have its drama and the post doesn't have any funny moments whatsoever, but the prevailing moods are primarily upbeat for the first part and deep sorrow for the second. You will know the exact moment the tone of the movie shifts when you see Ansel make the SADDEST FACE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. I call it his kicked-puppy face, and I just can't handle it. I saw the movie two and a half weeks ago, and Ansel's face still haunts me. But as I said, Hazel has a scary dramatic moment in the first part, and Gus, Hazel, and Isaac have a beautifully carefree and uproariously hilarious scene after Amsterdam. This is so necessary because if the first part were all fun, the audience would be sucker punched by the immediate change in tone and then be uber depressed for the second part. By including some scenes that shake it up, we are reminded that this is a tragic story full of cancer and sorrow and breakups and death and disappointment...but also that it's a good one full of love and laughter and friendship and romance and family and hope.
I very much enjoyed this movie. Even as I discarded napkin after tissue after napkin (you really do need to have a handful with you even if you are not normally a crier), I was laughing my butt off because of all the sniffles and sobs echoing the theater. It's actually really funny to listen to the audience. It is a testament to John, to the cast, to the screenwriters, to the director, to everyone who worked on the book and the film both that the audience is so captivated by this story. Whatever else you have to say about The Fault in Our Stars or its author, this is the kind of story that gets people reading and forces all those anti-ya douches to understand why the genre is not just entertaining to us but is important and wholly necessary.