The Fault in Our Stars is such a great movie because its source is such a great book. We are drawn in by the story, the clever dialog and the comical tragedy of their compacted lives lived out in the context of young adults with cancer. Talk about YOLO. We stay connected due to the relationships, mainly of Augustus Waters to Hazel Grace but also of their relationship with Issac, their own parents (especially Hazel to her Mom). This movie nicely fleshes out the book; it is true to its source. Indeed, much of what I say about the movie could be said about the book and visa versa. So I will focus on the aspects more specifically tied to the movie here while confessing to some overlap; for a fuller review of the book, see The Fault in Our Stars Reviewed: An Authentic, Comedic Tragedy of Life and Loss.
Some movie commentators were surprised that this movie has done so well. They went so far as to diss others, like Edge of Tomorrow that were higher budget but were getting pummeled at the box office. It simply shows that good writing and acting beat action and sound effects. But they have to be really good or we’ll wait for it to come out on Redbox, Netflix or disc since the big screen is less critical. (By the way, I quite liked Edge of Tomorrow and thought, in its way, it was fairly clever as well. Obviously, it’s a very different movie. Let me put it this way, it’s good enough that I’m reading the book that inspired the movie, Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill.) The Fault in Our Stars is so good that many of us wanted to see in the theater. If you loved the book, you’ll love the movie. If you haven’t read the book, perhaps the movie will entice you.
Now for the dialog. This is the epitome of a sharp, witty and thoughtful YA movie. Some of the quotes you’ll see peppered across fan art on the internet are:
You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you,” “All efforts to save me from you will fail,” he said
I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?
Waiter: “We have bottled all the stars this evening, my young friends.
Ad infinitum. Many more quotes abound. Witness Indy Taylor’s quotable construct:
The draw for us is the humor co-mingled with tragedy. If it were simply tragic, this would be a bummer of a depressing film. If it were merely humorous, it would be an insensitive and inauthentic look a teens with cancer. It is this finding of true love amongst clever teens who “allow the pain to be felt” that catches our breadth, our emotions and our hearts. As always, the book does a better job with this because you have a larger canvas on which to play out the story, but it is fleshed out well in the film.
I want to make a particular note on the humor. Some, including World Magazine, hit on the references to the “literal heart of Jesus” and other references to suggest the film uses “the name of Jesus [as] nothing more than a running gag—it’s simply unconscionable” I think, as I indicated in my book review, rather, the movie takes to task a view of Christianity that is devoid of substance; it uses platitudes and pop-psychology to feel good about yourself struggling with cancer. The movie (and book) lampoons this version of non-Christianity. Kids with cancer, as well as all of us, don’t need jingos to make it through “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (some more outrageous than others). We need a savior who has felt pain and loss. We need a savior who cried at Lazarus’ tomb and wept in the garden. We need the Jesus who died and rose again so that we have hope that our existence isn’t merely slogging through this world but allows us to look ahead to a better country, a heavenly one. Not that we’re left without hope and encouragement now, but it does not deny “that pain must be felt.” I say skewer away; the less people confuse the version of Christianity with the authentic person and work of Christ, the better.
Does this mean my theology lines up with John Green’s? Not so much. Do I think it was OK [i.e., morally permissible if they were real people] for Hazel & Augustus to have sex outside of marriage? No. (I doubt Hazel’s parents would have objected to her marrying Augustus; Augustus was old to not need permission. They could have just a family wedding in their house in an afternoon. Then, go for it.) It does mean that we misdirect our aim by critiquing what is not authentic Christianity.
If I haven’t been clear so far, let me be so now – I wholeheartedly encourage you to see the movie and read the book; you might want to have a few tissues by your side both for tears of laughter and of pain. Also, the sountrack is fabulous, but that’s another post.