However useless I would be in the event of plagues, natural disasters and the like, I am your best friend when it comes to social phenomena launched by teenagers. Give up trying to ignore this Fault in Our Stars thing with those weird clouds and girls who cry when you say the word “okay” to them. I’m here to break down what you need to know and I’m going to do it in three levels of basic obsessiveness because not all movie-goers/pop-culture-emotional-apocalypse survivors are created equal.
You have no idea what any of this means but this movie is vaguely interesting to you:
Gus, Isaac, and Hazel meet in a support group for young people with cancer in a church basement. Gus lost a leg to a touch of cancer, Isaac an eye and potentially the second one as well, and Hazel (Shailene Woodley, your temporary Jennifer Lawrence until Mockingjay comes out) calls herself a grenade. She has terminal cancer being held at bay by a trial drug, but no one pretends that it’s a permanent solution or that one exists. Sounds hilarious, right? It actually is. Fantastic gallows humor and regular fun humor abound. And so do struggles to cope with illness, mortality, the unfairness of life and other overall qualities of the Universe. So yeah, it’s a movie about teenagers.
But it’s a smart movie, intentionally anti-sentimental and anti-pity. Any happy endings will not be because it will feel good or someone deserves it, but because that’s life. And maybe that honesty is what strikes such a chord with so many people who have read the book, and now those who will see the movie. Like its subject matter, the movie moves at a steady pace and pulls no punches. If you don’t cry then you’re either a monster or you need to teach me your wizard ways because I was a fucking mess for almost the whole two hours.
You’ve read the book and want to see the movie:
Gus and Hazel are cast perfectly. That’s the thing the whole movie hinges on and they nailed it. Okay? Okay. All of the casting is great, down to the Cancer Team, but the big two are just so effortless together that the next time you see them as brother and sister Tris and Caleb in the Divergent movies it’s going to be really uncomfortable.
There’s a lot of the book missing in the movie, which will be obvious to even the most casual reader. But the cuts hurt a lot less than say, entire characters who never made it into the Harry Potter movies. Author John Green has been talking for months about how loyal the script is “in spirit” to the book, which has been terrifying because when has that ever been true? It is now. The things that are cut and the things that are shuffled around are done in ways that make complete sense and make a coherent movie that’s less than eight hours long.
Part of what’s great about the movie is what a great adaptation it is: it’s loyal and literal in places, but doesn’t sell anything short or take away from any of the vital points of the book. That asshole in the book is a super huge asshole in the movie, disappointments stay disappointing and the moments of familial love and revelation are not milked for time. The important lack of pandering in the book made it into the movie. So did the Swedish rap music.
You’ve read the book at least three times and there’s a good chance you’ve already seen the movie by the time you see this:
What’s missing specifically? “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” Everything else you really want is there: the bottled stars, falling in love like falling asleep, the Night of the Broken Trophies, Gus’s gaming chairs, the Literal Heart of Jesus and Funky Bones. The pedophile swing set Craiglist ad doesn’t happen, but the swing set is there. And watch for its absence later in the film—even though you may be upset by things that get left out, there are small things hidden in the film that pay homage to the rest of the book. I particularly enjoyed the Hectic Glow posters in Hazel’s room. I also enjoyed the fact that the film doesn’t draw out the miserable decline of a specific character. It makes the scene at the gas station that much more devastating.
The only thing you need to know is that the movie is what you hoped it would be. Bring all the Kleenex. Wear a disguise if you have a problem with people seeing you ugly cry. Give in to the ugly cry. Hydrate before the movie because you’re going to weep like you’ve rarely wept before. Maybe bring an encouragement or four of your own with you to help recover before you leave the theater. Maybe plan to see your therapist the next day. Or just bring them with. Godspeed, superfans, and as they say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.