Friday, September 12, 2014

Film Friday: The Fault in Our Stars

Author's Note: Due to the release of The Fault in Our Stars on DVD/Blu-ray and download on Tuesday, Sept. 16, I'm combining the book and film reviews.

Spoilers are like vampires, they suck the anticipation right out of a book or film or television show. In the literary world, I hadn't had a spoiler happen in ages until I was about to read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton/Penguin). I was trying to squeeze in reading the book before the film came out earlier this summer and I wanted to get a sense if this young adult book was attracting readers who don't normally read YA books, like The Hunger Games did in recent years. After scouring Goodreads and YouTube, the answer was a definitive "yes." One YouTuber, however, opted to talk about the book's ending and thus, spoiled the novel in what was the worst spoiler I've had since Cedric Diggory's death in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The book itself is wonderful in telling the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two Indianapolis teens diagnosed with different forms of cancer who fall in love. The book plays off of the usual cancer-related groups (cancer support groups, the "Genies" being a stand in for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, cancer drug trials, etc.) in a way that grounds the book and gives off the impression that this could actually happen. Both Hazel and Augustus are written well. They're not doe-eyed innocent creatures who suddenly realize how messed up the world is, but they're also not the most mature teens ever seen. They still do stupid teenager things and have their moments of teenage pretentiousness.

Despite the witty writing, the book hinges on the twist that sets up the ending and frankly, even if I hadn't had the ending spoiled for me, I probably would have still guessed the outcome. The book tries to push one possibility so hard, one begins to suspect the opposite will happen, which it in fact does. I probably would have rated it a bit higher, but because of the spoil, I'll give the book a 3.5/5 stars rating.

When the movie came out, my publication's entertainment writer knew I was an avid reader and asked if I had read the book. I said yes, only for her to ask if I could write something up that compares the book and film. I went to a late Friday showing and as the ticket-taker at the theater glanced at me and my ticket, she stifled a laugh. I braced myself for a chick-flick bonanza with screaming teenagers in the audience, but luckily the movie was not like that.

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort play the film versions of Hazel and Augustus with a terrific supporting cast led by Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe. The Amsterdam sequences were great in the book but were better in the film, especially Dafoe's crusty portrayal of Peter Van Houten, a secluded bestselling author who has succumbed to his demons. Well-directed by Josh Boone, the film adaptation does the book justice and was one of the better films I saw this summer. Both in reading the book and watching the movie, I was constantly reminded of 2007's "Juno," a story that deals with quirky teens handling an adult issue in a Midwestern town, complete with an alternative-pop soundtrack. Personally, I like Juno a bit better. I would save future viewings for a date night, but "Fault" earned a solid B rating.
If you saw the movie or read the book, what did you think?

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