University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Fault in Our Stars: A Story of Little Infinities
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” –John Green Like any good book, The Fault in Our Stars is the kind of movie that should be experienced by all. It is a romantic comedy drama, based on the best-selling novel by award-winning author John Green, about two quirky, cancer-stricken teens, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, who fall in love. The romance they share is compelling and stands out from typical love stories because the possibility of death is always looming over them. The movie is about a morbid subject – cancer, but treats its subject with lightness and finds a way to convey the humor in a terrible situation. It is at times grim in its detail about disease, but the characters manage to crack jokes about their awful predicament, and their way of coping with their sickness is unique and gutsy. The actors do a tremendous job of embodying their characters and conveying those compelling emotions. The Fault in Our Stars is an exceptional film that would be enjoyed by anyone. The plot is genuine and charismatic, but also meaningful and thought provoking. It stayed remarkably true to the book unlike many modern films based off of books. The characters are believable and easy to relate to, and their romance is sincere and unfeigned, and not overly-maudlin at all.
The plot is full of depth and dynamic. Though it may seem like a typical teenage romance film, The Fault in Our Stars is distinct in the way that it confronts difficult topics like death and oblivion in a fearless and straightforward manner. The story follows Hazel (Shailene Woodley), who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of thirteen. A clinical trial gave her a few good years, but she has never been really anything but terminal. Her behavior leads her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammel) to believe she’s depressed, and force her to attend an insufferable cancer support group, where she meets who turns out to be the love of her life, Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). At first glance, you can feel the chemistry. They are drawn together but not just because they have cancer, but by love. The Fault in Our Stars isn’t a typical cancer story. Even loosely considering it a “cancer story” seems like a momentary injustice. Nor does it quite conform to our traditional notions of sappy, angst-ridden teen romances. The plot of this movie is skillful, mingling the topics of love and existence seamlessly.
A perfect example is when Gus is talking to Hazel with tears in his eyes and says, “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.” Some argue that the plot of this movie is sappy, shallow, and predictable. What they fail to see is that The Fault in Our Stars masterfully mixes weighty topics like existence, oblivion, and fear into the love story. Another aspect to note, besides the insightful plot, is that The Fault in Our Stars did not stray too far from the book it was based upon. The movie kept in every character and significant happening from the book- it condensed it in just the right way. More than half of the movie is quoted directly from the book, which is just something that is unheard of in today’s book to film adaptations. Augustus keeps his angsty, mature dialogue but not as much; he way he talked in the book was somewhat unrealistic, and the movie version of him was more believable. Critics will point out that much of the dialogue from the book was cut out. This is true, but the scriptwriters did an excellent job of condensing conversations from the book into shorter, but equally effective exchanges between the characters. Not unlike the plot, the protagonists in The Fault in Our Stars are full of charm.
The lead character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is a brilliant, witty, well-read young woman. She has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs and because of it, she carries an oxygen tank around with her. But her outlook on the situation is more acerbic than grim, with her clever and funny observations on “cancer perks”, drawing the attention of Augustus “Gus” Waters, a handsome 18-year-old she meets at a cancer support group. Not exactly ideal, but then again nothing about their situation is truly ideal. This makes finding one another pure magic. Augustus is currently in remission from osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, ending his basketball career when the disease took his leg. He’s brooding, romantic and infectiously charismatic, and, like Hazel, he has a somewhat offbeat perspective on life. Where she’s a bit bleak, he has a sunnier disposition. They complete one another and learn from one another in just about every way imaginable. Gus loves Hazel almost immediately, ingratiating himself into her life and charming her parents, even though Hazel remains distant in an effort to hurt as few people as possible, declaring, “I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”
Endearing, sarcastic, relatable and acerbically funny, Augustus and Hazel Grace charmingly illuminate the dark world of dealing with cancer. For example, Augustus makes light of his numbered days when he tells Hazel, “I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while back not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence. Particularly given that … we’re all gonna die pretty soon.” In one scene, Hazel, Augustus, and their blind friend Isaac decide to get revenge on Isaac’s ex girlfriend, Monica, by throwing eggs at her car. When Monica’s mother discovers them, Augustus goes off into a passionate but humorous soliloquy, saying, “Hello ma’am. Your daughter has done an injustice and we’ve come here seeking revenge. We may not look like much. Between the three of us, we have five legs, four eyes, and two and a half working lungs. But we also have two dozen eggs. So if I was you, I would go back inside.” Hazel demonstrates her philosophical wit when she ponders an old adage: “‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
Hazel is also eloquent and has an inimitable way of expressing herself, as noted in her declaration of love to Augustus: “Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” Some say that Hazel and Augustus seem to fall in love far too quickly and have a very sudden, impulsive romance. However, both of these protagonists have cancer and are always in danger of a relapse of their disease. Death looms over them. In a way, their quick descent into romance seems justifiable because, being cancer patients, their days are numbered and they have to make those days worthwhile. Overall, this is an exceptional film. The lively and thought-provoking plot, engaging characters, and pertinence to the book it was based upon make it a work of art. The Fault in Our Stars takes a story of two people and puts them in a quotidian life, adds extraordinary circumstances, and creates something remarkable.