Right, just a disclaimer to begin with, no I haven’t read the book. When the film came out I was unaware of a book existing. It is something that I will read having seen the film now.
In the most basic form, The Fault in Our Stars is a love story between two terminally ill teenagers who meet through a support group. The two being: Hazel, a girl with the realistic, inevitable doom view and Gus, the optimistic, live life to the fullest guy.
The script is ok, in terms of story it worked wellish. The dialogue however is terrible. It’s full of cliches and horrible proclamations. Gus is the worse character ever. For us to feel sorry for the guys is just impossible because he’s such a pretentious twat. His speeches just go on and on and are full off sickening riddles and metaphors. Oh and the cigarette, the cigarette metaphor is just on a different scale of pretentious. It’s disgusting and offensive to film.
Also, I couldn’t help but feel very bored in most parts of the film. I remember catching myself a lot more than once looking at my watch, waiting for the film to end. The film has a very sad story at the center so naturally it will be sad. But instead of having natural sad moments, it becomes very formulaic. The film basically goes through set up then sad moment. Set up then sad moment. Set up then sad moment. It gets to the point where it’s predictable. During one of the happier moments, you can just tell that the next scene will be sad because that’s how the film has been playing it all the way through. But having these repeated tear-jerking just lessens the effect of the final sad scene. Now I know I said the script balances well between the humour and darker points but this isn’t about script, it’s about structure and pacing, which is very lacking in this film. It just goes from one upset to another and because of their frequency you don’t get enough time to engage with the characters and feel for them. Impending doom only has so much effect on a viewer, but if it’s coming up so often you just stop caring. Also, the actual sad moments feel so staged that you lose immersion. It all feels so fake and the abrasive music numbers doesn’t help.
Another point is something that a lot of other reviewers have commented on and in some regards can be seen as heartless and harsh but with this story it’s something that needs to be addressed. Now the character’s lives seems to be very less tragic that excepted. Yes they have cancer, I’m not saying that’s not tragic. But, everything else is very…too-good-to-be-true. Big homes, loving parents, fashionable cars and other luxuries. Within a sentence, Hazel’s dreams are made true. Everything is really easy and the film knows this because once you get embroiled in their wonderful lives it pushes the cancer in your face; as if to say: “they have wonderful lives, but remember the cancer, cancer is bad. Therefore you must feel sorry for them.” It’s just really hard to feel sorry for these characters. But again, it’s all in service for the sad moments. I mean the more they have the more there’s to lose right? It appears to be that the only depth to these characters is their cancer. It doesn’t explore anything else. We get the impression that Hazel isn’t involved in the normal school life and is kind of a loner but the film doesn’t really explore that aspect of her. It touches upon it in the beginning, but the connection between her and Gus is so sudden that it pushes it under the rug very early on. At the same time, Gus is very two dimensional. He’s the charming, knows what to say guy but that’s it. There’s nothing more to him. There’s a bit about him wanting to be remembered or going on to do something big or something, but the film doesn’t explore these ideals or look at what he wants to do. The film just seems to go: “yep, he’s the handsome love interest with cancer, that’s all he needs to be.” There’s so much more that could be done but it’s pushed to the side in favour of epic sad moments that are just not that epic. A bit more character development and those sad moments would actually mean something. There’s another point in the film (SPOILER) that is really living in fairytale land and made me gag was a scene in the Anne Frank house and Hazel and Gus first kiss. This display of affection was received with a round of applause from all spectators. There’s just an air of arrogance in this scene, it’s like a cue for the audience to feel happy for the couple. Again, very staged, not emotional and completely fake. Instead of letting the audience have these emotions on their own accord, the film dictates it for them. “Here you have to be happy, now to be sad, now to be really sad.” Emotions should be fluid and natural not formulaic like this.
I know I shouldn’t really expect so much from a teenage romcom but with such a deep subject matter I expect a little more intelligence from the story telling especially if it’s based on such an acclaimed book.
But yeah. Here’s the trailer. Go check it out or whatever.