The Fault in Our Stars
Tea: Gunpowder – Temple of Heaven (I needed divine help for this movie)
Full spoilers for the movie, you are not missing anything anyway
Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book of the same name by John Green
Every once in a while someone will yank on my chain that binds me to society and drag me to some social event. This time I was blessed with watching “The Fault in Our Stars” a movie about a bunch of teens with cancer. A truly entertaining experience, until I noticed I wasn’t laughing at the parts I apparently was supposed to. Given our society a cancer movie cannot be bad, since cancer is a serious issue. So what am I going to say? 10/10, need to watch.
But I wouldn’t be the critic I think I am, if I couldn’t legitimately criticise this movie, so here we go: The Fault in Our Stars is an example of really bad writing and truly awful character development. The movie starts out with some expository dialogue about life not being a movie with happy endings, so you can pretty much bet on this movie pulling every cliché out of its cancer diseased hat. So after we are given a strong speech about how life is harsh and difficult along with some time laps shots of why cancer sucks the main character, Hazel Grace, goes to a support group meeting for cancer victims. This (by modern standards) attractive girl then immediately stumbles into a (by modern standards) attractive dude. He goes by the name of Augustus Walters and gives off an enormous smug vibe. His smile is that of an overly self-confident athlete and his good character traits are feed to us in every scene. In fact, the movie sets out to make you believe that he is the perfect person. I really can’t stand when a movie forces me to like a character, but gives me little reason to other than how great he is supposed to be. Don’t try to engage my brain, John Green. Yet this image of perfection Gus displays was struck with cancer and he consequently lost his foot. Oh cruel destiny, how could you do that! Did we mention that cancer sucks? But I digress.
The inevitable happens and the two of them get to know each other. He then pulls out a cigarette and Hazel, who suffers from a lung condition I honestly can’t recall in detail, is somewhat understandable disgusted by it and delivers a little impromptu speech on the value of breathing. We then learn that little Gus is also a philosopher and the cigarette is a metaphor for facing death and not granting it power over your life. Which first of all, to me sounded like he made it up on the spot, but that might have also been the terrible German translation and delivery, but we’ll get to that later. Secondly, I can’t really agree with the message, it’s like constantly holding a gun with your teeth to show the Grim Reaper how much of a badass you are.
Plot happens and the two of them get closer and closer, even though Hazel brushes every attempt off, since they are “just” friends. That scene got lots of laughs form female and male audience members alike, which I couldn’t really understand. The male percentage supposedly could relate all too well to the situation, but I think it is kind of offensive to see women as automatons you simply put some curtesy coins into until sex falls out. The next scene tells us in a really subtle way that Gus is still a virgin, more laughing ensued that I couldn’t wrap my head around either. Why do we need to know this? If you can’t see their relationship being telegraphed from space then you should probably seek professional help.
More badly written dialogues take place and we learn about Hazel’s favourite book. It’s about cancer. Just while we are on the subject: I have heard a lot of people say how well-rounded the characters are. But tell me this: What other character traits does Hazel have, besides the book and cancer? But I digress. Since the book ends with an open end, as literary works tend to do, she wants some answers from the author himself. Through a number of plot devices they get a chance to go to Amsterdam and meet him there. Seek more professional help if you didn’t suspect that the writer would be an asshole.
Next are some stock images of Amsterdam and a flight company with the plane setting off in front of a sunset, even though it is bright day inside the aircraft, but never mind that cancer is terrible! Just to clarify, I am not saying cancer isn’t a terrible disease and that it causes a lot of suffering, but I am reviewing a movie and I hate the fact that it seems to get a free pass just because of that.
The two of them have a fancy dinner and he spills the secret of his love to her. Couldn’t have seen that one coming. Some awkward silence later the two of them leave. Next is the meeting with her beloved author, who is an alcoholic. An alcoholic writer? Leave some imaginative characters for the rest of us to write John Green! Turns out his assistant set up the meeting to help him get over his alcoholism. Call me crazy, but I liked his character the most in the entire movie so far. As a fellow writer I can fully understand why he doesn’t want to give her the answer she is asking herself, that is the point of some works, missy! She makes a big scene, calling him names, and rushes away. The writer, played well by William Dafoe by the way, doesn’t give a damn however. His assistant apparently feels sorry for the two and invites them to visit the Anne Frank house. Why? Not a bloody clue, solely because it has no elevator and a lot of stairs to reincorporate that half-finished sentence form her dad near the start. Every step she takes is accompanied by Anne Frank dialogue and really gives the scene an awkward feel, forcing you to think it is so deep that you can’t even make out the characters anymore in the deep trench they are supposedly in. Having almost died they reach the top floor and we reach the most awkward scene yet. Making out in front of Anne Frank pictures and of her abducted family and to top it off, people start applauding. I couldn’t not help but slam my head against a nearby chair that someone actually got paid to play and write that. This book was a bestseller I’ll remind you. This scene is about as romantic as a proposal in Auschwitz.
The inevitable happens and the two of them end up in bed where we get to another major gripe with this movie. As the two of them undress we learn that cancer leaves your body completely intact and hot white guys can continue to have their mandatory six-pack. At this point we are yet unaware that Gus’s cancer is back again, but I didn’t forget those abs John Green, how could I. The only thing he is worried about is how Hazel will react to his leg missing. One should also remember that Hazel has breathing problems when she gets to exhausted and she gets exhausted after a few stairs, so it I don’t know how they pulled that one off. Before anything happens the screen fades to black, obviously, but rather than just assuming everyone got the idea of what was going on the movie spells out “hey, did you understand that they slept with each other?”
The big twist is that Gus’s cancer is back, one that I have broken to you before. More lines about cancer being truly awful and unfair are thrown around and the two of them fly back home. Gus is now faced with his death again and the façade crumbles as he is hell-bend on wanting everybody to remember him. Hazel goes into dramatic speech-mode again and lectures him that it should be enough for him that she will never forget him. I thought there would be some character devolvement now, but no. Shortly afterwards he wants to be read his own eulogy just to show that he didn’t get the point altogether, although the same could be said for the author. After he sits through his own praise like a smug bastard we learn that he died a few days later. Looked pretty healthy back then, but this is a guy with a steels six-pack while having cancer so kiss logic farewell.
We make it to his funeral and probably the only piece of writing I enjoyed in this movie, namely “funerals are not for the dead, but for the living”. Nothing wrong with that, solid writing. Just as the movie seems to end the author cannot help himself but ruin the only character I enjoyed and makes the alcoholic writer turn up at the funeral. Ruining a solid character by turning him into a cheap plot devices. The movies fades out with some more award winning lines and ends. Thank God.
As you can tell I wasn’t all that impressed, but wait there is more so stay with me: I already mentioned that I was forced to see the German version of the movie and consequently I bore witness to some truly horrible translation and dubbing. For instance, Hazel accuses the writer of being a whatever she says in English, in German she uses a word a five year old would use, which makes the scene where the compliment her on the choice of words all the more hilarious. It’s like she has a thesaurus in that medical bag pack she keeps dragging around. The mother would win my award for worst female side character. Her acting is all over the place, resulting in weird facial expressions and German-exclusive horrible delivery.
Final note: I did find this movie entertaining, but more as a piece to rip apart, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as a serious watch. If you are looking for a solid movie about sick teens and love I can recommend “Restless”, a far superior movie in every respect. It takes itself for what it is, a subtle romance with not too many clichés and a sad, but not eye-watering ending that leaves you with a good feeling.