A dear friend of mine took me out today for a bit of a girly date to catch a whiff of the latest trend, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Both of us have never read the book and we went out really as a consequence of spare tickets from her sister, but we were curious about why people were raving about it.
I think it is safe to say we weren’t both exactly the types that were ‘on the ball’ regarding what was hot and happening. She’d actually missed out on the latest Disney global phenomenon, Frozen! To her credit, she caught Maleficent while I prided myself with catching on the whole Divergent rage.
So yes, we went partly to keep up with the rest of the world and take a break from our own (obviously) too-limited range of literature. We were suitably warned that it would be a tear-jerker and had a good hunch someone in it was going to die.
The Fault was basically a love story between two teenagers, Hazel and Gus, who have been struck with cancer and have made it something of a mission to pay a visit to the author of a book they really like, “The Imperial Affliction”, because it ends mid-sentence and they want to know what happens to the rest of the characters in it. It was a major struggle to get to the author of ‘The Imperial Affliction’, Peter van Houten, who was all the way in Amsterdam given Hazel’s lung condition. Well, they made it to van Houten’s but the meeting didn’t turn out as expected and the rest of the movie was an emotional resolution to the let down, cancer in general and [SPOILER ALERT although you probably already knew too] the death of a certain someone in the story.
This post won’t really delve into the movie or the storyline or anything like that. I cannot tell a good movie or story from a mediocre one unless it’s glaringly bad so I won’t try. I had some thoughts from watching this movie though. And I know it may be missing the whole point about the cancer and its sickening impact of just greying the young lives it strikes.
Just to be clear, I think this is a great story. It’s the kind of story that could really happen to anyone and I liked how Green was trying to keep it real, keeping it close to dealing with the emotional trauma cancer patients deal with and the usually ignored side of cancer; that it affects people and how they live everyday with an axe swinging over their heads. I found the notion of the whole relationship between Hazel and Gus refreshing. It’s like I never thought cancer patients had a social life. I thought everyone sits around the hospital and mopes and all that. I mean, I must have known they had a social life. But it’s not something you think about when you hear the word ‘cancer’. ‘Cancer’ itself seems to take up too big a space in my mind to have room to consider other aspects of life. It’s just so big. So yes, this was kind of a new POV for me which I appreciated.
I also liked the whole van Houten thing. He was cruel and unusual but absolutely human. Of course, he was stereo-typified as the loon writer. I actually teared up at their meeting with him because he was saying such awful cruel things and it was just so much to take in, to hear what he thought about cancer patients. When he came back at the end though, I knew he kind of turned around and I had hoped Hazel would have given him a chance.
[SPOILERS] Throughout the movie, these questions began flitting about my head: Why would Hazel befriend Gus in the first place? Did you see the creepy smile he gave her during the support group sharing? Eww. Isaac and Monica in the parking lot… How could Gus’ parents’ not hear Isaac trashing Gus’ trophies in the basement? Where were Gus’ parents during the whole Amsterdam stint? Seriously, would you let your one-legged child just fly off with a couple of strangers when his cancer may relapse? WHY ON EARTH WOULD HAZEL’S DAD NOT BE WITH THEM ON THE AMSTERDAM TRIP? HOW IS IT EVEN APPROPRIATE FOR GUS TO BE ABLE TO JUST ENTER THE HOTEL ROOM OF HAZEL AND HER MUM? HAZEL’S MOTHER, SERIOUSLY, LET YOUR 17 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER AND HER 18 YEAR OLD GUY FRIEND HANG TOGETHER AT NIGHT WITH NO CURFEW??? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, WOMAN??? It’s like you wanted them to share a room and- oh man, I have no idea what is going through your head. Wait, and this is PG 13? What is the world coming to? And Lidewij, can’t you tell Hazel is suffering up those steps? Why are you making her do this?? All this time I was so afraid she may just collapse in Anne Frank’s house. If it’s so darn difficult to enjoy this tourist attraction, go somewhere else. Hazel can’t be enjoying herself like this, can she?
Hazel’s mother was very cool and very strong to have taken care of Hazel this long and for preparing to help families going through the same thing. But seriously. If you told me she didn’t think Hazel and Gus would sleep together, I would not believe it. She must have known and she just let them. Speechless.
Also, Hazel’s dad? Let your daughter whose medical condition is so unstable go off traipsing to Amsterdam with your wife and her boyfriend? I know when my dad’s out of town, my mum’s stressed levels would be ever so slightly wound up because if anything happened, she wouldn’t be able to fall back on my dad although she’s perfectly capable of managing by herself. It’s his being around that assures her and at the very least, there would be two of them coping instead of one. While I don’t expect my family dynamic to be some kind of a standard, I can see throughout the movie both parents would rush Hazel off to the hospital and stuff. Imagine if anything happened to Hazel in Amsterdam. I have no idea how both parents can sleep peacefully at night without being bothered by any ‘what if’ questions regarding Hazel’s unpredictable condition. If Hazel had acted up in Amsterdam…
What bothered me very much in the end was the whole Hazel and Gus in the hotel room scene. I don’t suppose I would have minded so much if there weren’t so many kids in the theatre but there they were. Kids. They were really little kids that should have gone to watch Frozen for the 100th time. Judging by their outburst of giggles every time Gus says he loves Hazel, I’d say between 9 and 12. I had to bear these kids giggling their way through Isaac and Monica making out in the parking lot and Hazel and Gus saying (and doing) their whole romantic show. When you’re 9-12, I get that a little bit of romance gets you all excited. Heck, I was 9-12 before. It just gets annoying when their little minds go into overdrive by something sweet or dirty that goes on the screen. Seriously, though while I can’t blame you for being in the theatre, why would you even watch this? Just read the book.
And all this made me just a fraction more uncomfortable. What are we trying to teach kids? That if you have cancer you can just go and have sex? If you love someone very very much you can go and have sex with them? At how old? While I get that this isn’t meant to be an educational film in that sense, this whole having sex thing before marriage and even just before hitting 20 has been going around in one too many movies. Call me a prude but I always thought it was marriage then sex. I know times have changed but everybody knows this standard. It’s just been so ignored and broken so many times that it’s not a rule anymore. And if we keep breaking it, it becomes a new normal for the next generation. And how Gus says he is a virgin at 18, why is it such a big deal? If you’re not married it’s supposed to be perfectly normal to be a virgin, isn’t it?
Yep so all that was what was going through my mind, plus how all those close ups of Hazel reminded me of Jane Lynch. I think it was her hair.
I liked Isaac the best though (minus his Monica make out session). He was honest and cool and I really thought he looked better than Gus.
I think I will read the book when the trend fades, just for the writing style of Green. Some things work out better in books than movies and some vice versa. Besides, if they made it into a movie, it must be a good book.