Over the weekend the box office was dominated by the new movie adaptation of author John Green’s young adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars.” The movie features actors Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who oddly played siblings in their last movie together, Divergent) as two cancer survivors who meet in a youth cancer support group. They hang out, they bond and they understand each other’s others pain and suffering, they fall in love, they head out on a romantic wistful adventure in Amsterdam, and in the end (spoiler alert!) someone succumbs to their disease. Long story short I consider The Fault in Our Stars a teen light motion picture which deals with the powerful issues of cancer, dying, death, depression, solitude, all of which are serious and growing issues plaguing young people in increasing numbers so I can understand why the book and now the movie have been such a huge hit with young adults. My issue with the film is that I just didn’t feel emotionally invested enough to pull off tears of my own.
Why Am I Not Sobbing Too?
Clearly t the screening I attended I was one of the few in the audience who failed to turn on any waterworks . Everyone around was sobbing into their popcorn infused napkins. But then again, I wasn’t the only one to feel a lack of emotion while watching the movie. EW.com’s Erin Strecker wrote a great post about how she didn’t cry once during a watching of the movie and had to fake some tears in order to appear “normal” among her peers. That’s okay Erin I don’t want to feel normal and have no intention of feeling normal. My friend commented that she was shocked that I didn’t break out into tears or get emotional even once as we watched the movie. I told her I felt no reason to cry, I didn’t feel any need to express any emotions once because I didn’t have any from watching the movie. I asked her does this make me an unfeeling horrible human being because watching this intentional tear jerker of a movie elicited no tears myself? She said no she was just surprised. I have to admit I personally went through a near death experience near similar to the ones that our main characters were experiencing but I felt no attachment to any of the characters. Perhaps that was my biggest problem with The Fault in Our Stars is that I didn’t seem to bond with Hazel, Augustus and Isaac.
I found The Fault in Our Stars entertaining, and slightly maudlin due to the subject manner and their target audience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I found some of the story pandering and overly wistful. It’s nice to think when confronted with death we are all able to compartmentalize our experiences into living life to the fullest. But in reality we all know that tends not to happen. I had no issue with the movie’s leading lady & breakout star Shailene Woodley, she acts likes a sullen teenager who is going through a major life crisis at a very young age and seemly to give off a mature response to her character’s situation. She handles the role with grace and class. Ansel Elgort (now that’s a real stage name) handles the role of the love interest Augustus Waters (where do we get these names from people?) with panache but a little too much overreaching. Although the character was charming, he was also too good to be true despite being presented with a life filled with obstacles with an abundance of positive thinking and affirmation that never quite seemed to ring true for me. There were other issues with the movie for me as well, the sidekick character of Isaac (as played by Nat Wolff) served no useful purpose in the enhancement of the storyline. Apparently Augustus also had an older sister in the book, but was not displayed in the movie, so I really saw no use of Isaac in the movie but to simply give off witty one liners after another and apparently also to showcase someone else going through turmoil as they suffered through the ravages of cancer. Laura Dern displayed a nice maternal range as Hazel’s mom, but I felt Sam Trammell was not only way too young looking to pass as Hazel’s dad, but more importantly failed to equate a similar paternal range that Dern displayed on the maternal side.
Clearly the biggest issues I had with The Fault in Our Stars concerned the storyline. Angst always happens in teens, I get that. Depression, fear and loneliness is especially conveyed in people with cancer. But I felt everything was wrapped much too neatly in a bow for this story. I felt I was telegraphing every event in Hazel’s life as it was occurring. I could have predicted what was going to go right and was wasn’t going to go well right before each occurrence happened. I’m sure that’s okay with the audience that The Fault in Our Stars was trying to reach but with so much hype around the story I was expecting more. The film was a solid piece of entertainment, but I kept waiting to be drawn into the story of Hazel Lancaster and how she dealt with life and love’s challenges and felt myself shrugging at the end. Go see it for yourself and tell me if you cried or felt indifferent. There’s nothing wrong with a little debate on how a movie makes you feel. That’s why we go to the cinema in the first place.