Thursday, June 5, 2014

6/5/14 The Fault in Our Stars (TFioS) AKA The Night Before Our Stars Review

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings." (Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)

John Green wrote The Fault in Our Stars two years and a half years ago and it is finally, painstakingly, tantalizingly been adapted for film. I was almost year late coming to the book, reading it in the last weeks of 2012, and reviewed in on New Year's Day of 2013 here.

I was writing the review, er,  fan-girl synopsis in a rush after finishing the book. I started out mentioning its curse at being pigeon-holed as a Young Adult novel, which is typically toxic for serious readers. I've since run into a number of serious readers to whom I've mentioned the book and have met with that same patronizing look that makes me want to actually revert to being a teenager and punch them in the face.  Just because it is a book about young adults does not doom it to melodrama and turpitude.

It's never a good idea, I know, to write in the midst of the passion. You're too swept away, too hyperbolic, too-much, to do anybody any good. But I did it then because when you fall in love with something that rings the deepest chord you know how to hear, you can't help but sing along. Does it matter that the protagonists are teenagers? Maybe, in the way that nothing gold can stay. It lends a sweetness and a cynicism to being so certain about life, and death, that grown adults have lost. Perhaps the serious readers would count that loss as necessary and tsk-tsk me in their "snobbish, joyless, and old" (your words, Ruth Graham, not mine) seats from on high. I doubt they get out play and much anymore, either.

And so, tonight, Sam and I went to the event called "The Night Before Our Stars" to see the film ahead of its premier and sit on a live simulcast with John Green and the actors, director, and producer answering live and tweeted questions from those of us in attendance. We got a signed poster and a charm bracelet with the tickets. And, I kid you not, I am pretty sure I was the oldest person in attendance. There were some other women there who might have been about the same age, but the vast majority were younger teenage girls, dropped off by their parents, in groups, sniffling quite loudly by the end of the picture.

But alas, "The world is not a wish-granting factory."

I didn't cry. There is something about a book that lets you create the characters from part of you: voices, intonations, looks, feels. It cannot be transcribed to screen. I don't care how meticulous and careful the filmmakers were with the book (and they most certainly were), the depth must suffer in the visual medium.

Being someone who's read the book multiple times, I can never see the movie without it. I wonder how people who view the film having never read the book will feel. Gus was close, but no (unlit) cigar. Hazel was almost spot-on perfect. If I ever was going to shed a tear it was in that church scene reading the eulogy-that-never-was to Gus. She was magnificent in that scene. But between the scenes that were cut, trims that had to be made for budgets and running time and narrative simplicity, it was just a good movie. And just a good movie will never hold a candle to a spectacular book.

Green wrote the book in his own grief over the death of the girl who inspired Hazel. It's evident in his prose that he's working out his own terms of understanding the death of a kid, but it doesn't weigh the book down. There was just no way to translate that to screen, no matter how exact the dialogue was copied.

I had Sam sign my poster when we got home in silver Sharpie.  We had a good time. Neither of us needed the kleenex. That's okay. We shared it together.

Read the book. Just read the book.


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