As is the case with most successful books today, John Green’s epic, incredible, unbelievably sad novel The Fault In Our Stars has been adapted into a movie. I had the rare and distinct pleasure of seeing an advanced screening of the film with (as in, in the same room as) John Green, a supporting actor from the film and various studio executives. In one scene toward the end of the film, Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster is sobbing uncontrollably in her bed — that gasping-for-air, cannot-ever-imagine-a-time-when-you-are-not-sobbing kind of sobbing — and I must say it was a serious struggle for me to not do exactly that for the entire movie.
If you want the synopsis of the story itself, please refer to my review of the book from several months ago.
Done? Good. Crying? If not, I am worried for you.
I was a bit unsure how this story would translate to film without being a complete cancer sobfest from start to finish (it certainly made me want to sob from start to finish, but that is probably due to the fact that I saw it on the fourth anniversary of my father’s death), but I think the team did a great job overall. At first I thought the movie moved too fast — you get to the part when Hazel starts hanging out with Augustus before the audience (assuming they have not read the book) has a full appreciation of Hazel’s amazing wonderfulness on her own — but it eventually rights itself and stays on track with the book. The movie also does a very, very good job of sucking you right into the love story between Hazel and Gus, of making you remember what it’s like to be an infatuated teenager.
I truly hope “Shai”, as John Green and the others kept calling her at the screening, and Ansel Elgort are dating in real life, because their chemistry is beyond measure. They fall in love so elegantly (“like you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”), and Ansel is the perfect boy to play the near-perfect Augustus — handsome, adventurous, athletic, intelligent; the very essence of “cute teenage boy”. The movie does skip over the subtle hints that Augustus is no longer in remission, but I think that’s because they wanted to go for the real bomb-dropping effect when he finally tells Hazel in Amsterdam.
The best scene in the movie, speaking as a fan and (unqualified) critic, is when Hazel is delivering her eulogy for Augustus while he is still alive. Shailene’s presence in that scene and her connection with Ansel are unmatched; she truly and effortlessly enhances the purity and beauty of John Green’s words.
“My name is Hazel. Augustus Waters was the great star-crossed love of my life. Ours was an epic love story, and I won’t be able to get more than a sentence into it without disappearing into a puddle of tears. Gus knew. Gus knows. I will not tell you our love story, because—like all real love stories—it will die with us, as it should. I’d hoped that he’d be eulogizing me, because there’s no one I’d rather have…I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
Honestly, I do not recommend this movie to anyone who has not read the book, but I do recommend the book to everyone. Just prepare yourself.