Last month I was able to catch a super sneak preview of “The Fault In Our Stars” with a friend. In the theater we were surrounded by middle and high school kids and the excitement in the air was so thick and encouraging. I’m so used to seeing movies with adults who either have their critic hats on or are updating their Twitter feeds well into the million and one previews playing. But watching a movie with a 99% audience of kids under the age of 18? This was a new experience for me in the best way because their enthusiasm for John Green’s book and adapted movie put the biggest smile on my face as I looked around before the movie began.
From the beginning shots of the film, I knew that we were all going to be in for a treat. One of the hosts for the film, involved with its local marketing and publicity in Philly, said that it was “perfect”. When you hear bon mots like “perfect” and “magical” to describe any form of entertainment, one can either get extremely excited or very cynical. But my gut was telling me that she may be right. After all, my girl crush for Shailene Woodley knows no bounds and Ansel Elgort has been wonderful in the two films that I’ve seen him in thus far (“Carrie”, “Divergent”) . I hadn’t read Green’s book at that point, but I just had the feeling that this was going to be one of my favorite movies of the year. By the way, it sure is.
What makes TFIOS so special is how endearing the story is without being mawkish and how natural all of the stars in the movie are. All of the actors left a piece of themselves in the respective characters that they portrayed without fear and many, MANY tablespoons of courage. I can’t see any other actor with the talent, range, and street cred playing Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac. Shai, Ansel, and Nat possess and brought vitality, humor, gravitas, and intelligence to their roles. The adults of this movie were also superb. Most of the teen movies that I still love and have shaped my affinity for pop culture and film (“Jawbreaker”, “Heathers”, “10 Things I Hate About You”, etc.) showed either barely visible parents, parents who were in the movie long enough to help push it forward and provide the funny, or parents who “just don’t understand”. I loved watching Laura Dern and Sam Trammell in TFIOS; I felt their heartbreak and empathized with their pain of being parents with a child that has a terminal illness. Seeing them, as well as the other adults in the movie, like Willem Dafoe and the refreshing Mike Birbiglia, was nice because in real life parents make mistakes and can be nasty or kind or just as worried about life as a teenager would be.
If you have not read the book, don’t fret. I read “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” before seeing the film and I felt as though I cheated in a way. I was introduced to the characters and the plot and there were times in the theater that I kept anticipating how different this scene or that scene would be compared to the book. The same thing happened when I went to watch “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent”. In the case of “The Fault In Our Stars”, I was pleasantly awake to the possibilities of every scene and didn’t anticipate just how much I would cry. Oh, this movie will make you cry. How much or less is entirely up to you and your disposition, but at least a tear or two will find its way out of your tear ducts.
If there’s one thing this movie confirmed with such grace and believabilty, it’s that life doesn’t have to be perfect. Trying to be perfect will drive you mad because a life lived in the pursuit of loving others is a wonderful life indeed. After you see this film, you’re going to walk out of the movies with puffy, red eyes and you’ll want to find the love of your life, if you haven’t already. Hopefully if you have found that special someone, you already know that being loved by them and by the ones that love you back is enough. What Hazel and Augustus teach each other about love and life in their young, epic romance is so touching and reminded me that even when life is at its worse that doesn’t mean that you have to be. Love still exists in the darkest of moments.
Go see this little film that could and will. You can listen to the hype and grand reviews (they are everywhere and it’s a bit hard to get away from unless you are an active non-user of any form of technology), but take the time to see “The Fault In Our Stars” for yourself to see what is being called “the greatest love story of our generation.” Sans vampire, zombies, and a dystopic backdrop, it’s a wonder of a movie filled with heart and pain.