[dropcap letter="Y"]oung adult movies mean big business in Hollywood. Some of the top-grossing movies and film franchises of all time are geared towards the tween and teen demographic—and in the past two decades, inspiration has come from the YA bestsellers list.
"The Fault in Our Stars is one of these books." It topped the Amazon and Barnes and Noble charts as a pre-order, and debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Children’s Chapter Books in January 2012. Its author John Green is an internet celebrity: his legion of fans, called Nerdfighters, are passionate in their admiration, his detractors equally rabid. Tumblr is their battleground of choice.
So it comes as no surprise that TFIOS is one of the most anticipated movies of 2014. Like teen movies before it, it’s about becoming the best person you can be, experiencing love for the first time, and dealing with the curveballs life throws at you. Unlike previous teen blockbusters, there’s nothing magical, supernatural, or herculean about its characters. They’re just a bunch of crazy kids who just happen to have "a touch of cancer."
Book-to-film adaptations are notoriously difficult to navigate: staying true to the book may mean missing out on the added depth and dimension that an expanded movie universe can bring, while too many deviations from the story may alienate its original audience. Case in point: the movie tagline, “One sick love story,” was removed in later posters after Nerdfighters complained that it did not capture the essence of the story.
8List.ph caught a screening of "The Fault in Our Stars," and here’s our diagnosis:
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]8. THE LANNISTER EFFECT[/buffer]
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) bump into each other at a cancer support group for teens that meets “literally, in the heart of Jesus.” They have wildly different outlooks on life, but find themselves attracted to each other after a series of snarky quips. Woodley and Elgort banter easily onscreen and off, in part because they previously co-starred in another 2014 YA movie, Divergent, where they played…siblings. They actually look more alike as Hazel and Gus than they did as Beatrice and Caleb Prior.
Just take a deep breath, remember that you’re not watching Game of Thrones, and move on.
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]7. HOLLYWOOD HEALTHCARE[/buffer]
While we’re on the subject of suspending disbelief, let’s just get this out of the way: Hazel and Gus—and the rest of their support group friends--are the most fit-looking cancer patients to ever grace the big screen. References to their cancer are mostly verbal and occasionally cosmetic—a cannula and portable oxygen tank for Hazel, one brief peek at an artificial leg and a badly CGI’d knee stump for Gus.
The movie doesn’t dwell as much on hospital visits and medical procedures as the book does, but then again, it doesn’t have the luxury of time to do so. Besides, it’s really about Hazel and Gus living life to the fullest, and what better way to project that than by showing them in their dewy, youthful glory?
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]6. CINEMATIC CONVERSATION[/buffer]
The movie's writers and director had to ensure that John Green's emo eloquence made the transition from page to screen. They succeed for the most part--with expressive close ups and text bubbles to make message conversations more dynamic, along with the inevitable voiceover narration.
Dialogue set-pieces are lifted from the novel, cut down to movie length, of course, and occasionally taken out of the original context--but all changes were made to move the story forward. Even then, TFIOS clocks in at a lengthy 125 minutes.
(Pro-tip: if you hear a Nerdfighter complain mid-movie, it's because a significant portion of backstory was taken out, along with all the poetry references. Don't worry, the movie works perfectly well without it.)
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]5. SUPPORT GROUP SHENANIGANS[/buffer]
The movie may have lessened the screen time of its lead lovebirds, but the supporting characters don't get short shrift. Their best friend Isaac (Nat Wolff, in the sequence above) is a scene-stealer on page and onscreen, while group leader Patrick takes a comedic turn with stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia playing the role. Sam Trammell and Laura Dern play Hazel's supportive parents, and Willem Defoe knocks it out of the Vondelpark as Peter Van Houten, the reclusive author of Hazel's favorite novel, "An Imperial Affliction."
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]4. MOVIE MONTAGE, AMSTERDAM EDITION[/buffer]
Amsterdam is kilometer zero of TFIOS's emotional cartography, the turning point of Hazel and Gus's relationship. Cue movie montage: canal ride, tram ride, gourmet dinners, and a dramatic presentation of the book's Anne Frank Huis sequence. Nerdfighters with means have already gone on TFOS-inspired trips; after this movie, I bet a few more will add Amsterdam to their bucket list.
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]3. ABSENT AUTHORS[/buffer]
Nerdfighters revere John Green the way Hazel and Gus do Peter Van Houten; Green is equally appreciative of his fans and interacts with them online through his twitter and vlog. He was a vocal supporter of the movie adaptation and visited the actors on location, and filmed a cameo that was later cut out of the movie. Sorry Nerdfighters, but at least you The Scribe on Set official featurettes instead.
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]2. MOOD MUSIC[/buffer]
There's a fine, fine line differentiating John Green and Nicholas Sparks: it's called tone and characterization. Take this out, and you've got "A Walk to Remember."
With Green's original dialogue and descriptions minimized, the movie's cool teen vibe falls on the soundtrack. The scoring is maudlin, but the original songs contributed by Grouplove, Charli XCX, Birdy, and Ed Sheeran feel right at home on a typical teenaged girl's Spotify playlist.
[buffer by="10px 15px 10px 15px" id="bar"]1. TEARS AND FEARS[/buffer]
Whether in book or movie form, "TFOS puts audiences through the wringer. Every emotional upheaval feels like the end of the world when you're a teenager, and watching Hazel and Gus navigate an abbreviated life journey with as much grace as they can muster is pretty heart wrenching.
So if that's your jam, head to the theaters with a lot of tissue and be prepared to inundate your social media feeds with these hashtags: #yolo #feels #okay
What do you think about the adaptation? You haven't seen it yet? It's showing in theaters now and don't forget to post your thoughts and feels in the Comments Section.