The Skinny (No spoilers)
Let’s lay our cards on the table, shall we? This is a good movie, but you will not have a good time at this movie. I would say that the movie is an emotional roller coaster, but that would imply that it actually goes up at some point.
Everyone in the theatre was sniffling, whimpering, or straight up bawling except for me. But that’s not because I’m heartless: I wept like an 18th century French poet during the first 10 minutes of “Up”.
The cast makes the characters relatable and sympathetic. It has good pacing and writing that, while not award winning, accomplishes its mission. Buy a ticket or wait for Netflix, either is an acceptable option. Just be prepared to contemplate the mortality of your friends, family, and self for multiple hours after it’s over.
The Deep Dive (Spoilers)
“The Fault in Our Stars” concentrates on the heart wrenching subject of teens with cancer. Most of them were diagnosed pretty early in life, meaning that they really don’t understand an existence that doesn’t teeter on the edge of oblivion. The two main characters are Hazel, played by “The Descendants” alum Shailene Woodley, and Gus, played by Ansel Elgort. The two meet during a cancer support group meeting, quickly establish a connection, and proceed to destroy the audiences hopes and dreams for two solid hours. Think “Game of Thrones” with an oxygen tank.
The main focus of the film, regardless of the impression given by the movie’s trailers, is the death of Gus, our protagonist’s love interest who simply wants to be remembered after he is gone. Connected to his death however, is the emotional journey of Hazel. She is obsessively concerned with the effect her death will have on those around her. Will her parents be able to recover from the loss of their child? Will she indeed be a “grenade” which destroys all those who will be left once she has passed through this mortal coil? In a way, Gus’s main concern is that he will not be remembered, while Hazel’s is that she will never be forgotten.
The movie does an excellent job connecting the audience to the characters. The actors’ performances won’t receive an Oscar, but they accomplish exactly what they set out to do. There are one or two moments that don’t work, but they are far too few to make note. The writing, camera work, and score are effective, but once again, nothing that will make one stand up and take notice. For about the first quarter of the movie we are treated to the building of the two love birds relationship, an essential “raising the stakes” step which pays off in a movie where terminal cancer acts as a type of medical Sword of Damocles.
In the end Gus passes and Hazel lives. Gus accepts that his immortality will be in the memories of the living, Hazel realizes that life does indeed go on for those still here. Everyone has a specific amount of time here. Some have more than others. Complaining, whining, or cursing the gods won’t help in the least. The only thing left to do is sit back and accept that “some infinities are bigger than others”. However, this does not mean that they are any less worthwhile, important, or…infinite. At least to the person living.
It’s good and will make you think, but please make sure you being tissues. The folks I went with polished off the whole pack of Kleenex that I had in my pocket.