Friday, 25 July 2014

Movie Vs. Book: The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps then 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 prothestic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

The Fault in Our Stars is based on the New York Times Best Seller novel published in 2012, and written by John Green. At first I was a little bit worried to walk into a theatre for another book adaptation to a movie because (1) I loved the book and (2) there are so many of them nowadays. It became a proper trend; but gratefully TFIOS is different. 
This is a love story. It's a story of joy, devastating loss and most of all, life. It will make you laugh, rejoice, think, feel and will expend your heart with gratitude and humility, as well as change forever the way you hear the word "okay". YES it will make you cry! If you are one of the millions of people who have read TFIOS, you know this already. If you're not, prepare yourself as you will not walk away from this book, or this movie unaltered. I cried for the whole movie, if we're being honest. What struck me the most is that I thought I would leave really sad, but instead I felt hopeful and inspired. This movie is an encouragement. One of a kind you can take down into the darkness and it would still give you light. Personally, I read TFIOS the way Hazel falls in love with Gus: "slowly, and then all at once". I started out reading it a chapter at a time in between the papers I was grading and then I gave up on grading and read straight through till down. The strength of the film clearly comes from John Green's novel. The beauty of the book, and now the film is that it's a Young Adult novel that brought teens back to reality, which is good after years of popular YA fiction novels and movies revolving around vampires,wizards, deadly games and dystopian universes. That isn't just a "movie", Hazel's voice over intones over a close up of Shailene Woodley expressive eyes; but a document that dares to stare terminal illness baldly in the face rather than hide behind euphemisms. TFIOS' end is not that sad if we think about it for a second, it's uplifting and hopeful. It's emphasising the importance of making your days count, even if you have very few left. The movie manages to imitate those different feelings and does a great job of accurately bringing the book to life, thanks to a smart screenplay and dialogues. Plus, there are some aspects of this half-dreamy, half-earthbound romance that the director Josh Boone gets just right. Obviously certain scenes are cut but oddly non of these scenes are particularly crucial to the plot. However they may have helped to add some depth to the character. Mostly, I feel like the movie didn't really missed of anything. In fact, the most important aspect of this romance is the character's chemistry. Shailene Woodley (Hazel) and Ansel Elgort (Augustus) created two vibrant, believable parts filled with humour and intelligence. Hazel is clearly not afraid to die but she's scared of getting too close to people, and what they're going to do, how they're going to live without her. That's probably why it's so interesting to see how her parents deal with the fact that their child is dying. On the one hand Shailene Woodley embodies perfectly Hazel. She's her. She's funny, sarcastic and cynical. On the other hand, not to disrespect how amazing Shailene is in the film but Ansel Elgort is a real star. He's kind of the revelation of the movie. Gus character is tough as his heroic journey goes from strength to weakness, instead of the usual hero's journey from weakness to strength. He seems to have perfectly understood Gus in deep ways. He's brilliant. His character appeared like the best human being ever. By that I mean if everyone was like Gus there will be no problem at all on earth. Once again it's demonstrating how important is a strong supporting character in romance as they are are both overcoming the fact that they're dying of cancer (almost) together.

Indeed, cancer provides the butt of the film's most funny jokes, provides the power with which the story starts to squeeze the viewers first tears. TFIOS dearly refuses to become a stereotypical young-folks-in-love movie, but sometimes its trying to hard and it falls back into the cliché its trying to avoid. After all it's more complex and stylish than most similar films used to be. I loved how in different ways the novel shows the futility of the written words in the face of sickness and death - not just through the book-within-the book, An Imperial Affliction whose author gives the story its quest-based-plot - in the end no text and no piece of writing can e completely satisfying. The book and movie resists Hazel's grenade metaphor; as a person is not a weapon, and minimising casualties is not the point of love. The melodramatic trailer was a very good preview of the movie's spin off; but in this trailer when she says those words the cheerful pop soundtrack stopped and the romantic scenes suddenly gave way to dark slow motion images of a medical emergency. No one need any cinematic clues to feel the impact of the words. These summery Romantic stories are the YA fiction things. They are urgently nostalgic and also a kind of escape. They echoed as a philosophical essay question. Even if most of us were not that kind of teenagers who could seize the joy of the moment and hold on. When I get out of the theatre my best friend told me that it opened our tear ducts on the idea of dying young and wanting to fall in love with someone like Gus. She's right! And this is what YA fiction can do at their best when it works: open your tear ducts and then staunch the flow with something in between what you want and what you have - more drama but no actual answers, more love but no miracles. 
"The world is not a wish granting factory"
Finally TFIOS left us with one kid dying and one kid grieving. The kind of irresistible grief that is a full 10 on the pain scale. Though I melted gratefully into what A.O Scott calls TFIOS' "expertly built machine for the mass production of tears". 

Overall The Fault in Our Stars is not only reliable to people who have cancer but to everyone. Very well built with smart dialogues and good actors performances and chemistry which make the difference between a good romance and a shitty one (cc Twilight). I may have loved the movie as much as I loved the book.

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