Let me get something straight right off the bat. I have never read The Fault in our Stars, and before seeing the movie I didn’t really know what it was about. What I got from the trailer was “sick girl love story.” But what I got from seeing the movie this week was so much more.
Firstly, this was a special screening, the audience made up of hardened film journalists, fangirls, their boyfriends, and me. From the minute I sat down the whispers had started, girls and boys (mostly girls) who clearly were huge fans of John Green‘s original book eagerly sharing gossip about the movie. As the lights dimmed and the screen flickered to life the whispers quickly evolved into excited squeals, nervous laughter and genuine shouts. Then the movie started.
TFIOS follows the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a witty and intelligent teenager living with cancer who reluctantly attends a cancer support group where she meets the charming and handsome Augustus Waters (“He’s hotter than I expected,” said a girl a few rows behind). The two hit it off and begin what would be expected to be your stock standard big screen young people romance dripping in Nicholas Sparks-style melodrama. Except it wasn’t. What followed was a genuinely sweet, upliftingly funny and heartachingly honest story about two young people in love, and dealing with one of life’s cruelest situations.
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort ooze chemistry and there’s a definite spark between them. Shit, they were so adorable I couldn’t decide if I wanted to date them or be adopted by them. Sure, they play brother and sister in that forgettable Divergent movie, but here they’re entirely believable. Oh, did I mention Hazel’s mother is played by Laura Dern? Yeah, like as in Jurassic Park‘s Dr Ellie Sattler. She’s so damn good too, she needs to play an awesome on-screen mum more often.
Know what else is awesomely refreshing? The dialogue feels real. As in these kids are actually talking how kids actually talk. From the Hazel Grace’s dry sarcasm to Gus’ adorable text-flirting, these are lines written by someone who gets the internet generation. As funny as the film is, there’s a real heart here. As the movie plays out there are some seriously sweet moments that’ll thwack you over the head. Or heart.
If I could impart some advice at this point: Take. Your. Tissues.
A few times during the film there was audible weeping from around the cinema. A cinemaful of people were desperately trying to quietly sniff their way back to dry-eyedom. It was surreal. When the credits finally rolled and the lights came up I turned around quickly to see everyone with tissues out, the boyfriends dragged along to “the chick flick” with shirts up, wiping their eyes before too many people saw.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie move an audience so much and despite the tears you don’t leave sad. Ultimately the movie is uplifting, precious and adorable. By the sound of the audience on the way out, fans of the book will love this adaptation. There’s also a lot here for people who haven’t read the book. I highly recommend it. I’ll see it again, I’ll just take more tissues.
The Fault in Our Stars
In NZ cinemas June 5, 2013.