By Kylie Sparks
“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
John Green’s best-selling novel comes to life in Fox’s adaptation of “The Fault in Our Stars,” and what a life it lives.
“TFiOS,” as the rabid fandom of Nerdfighteria (also known as the name of John Green and his brother Hank’s fans) calls it, is shown from our protagonist, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley)’s point of view as a teen girl living with Stage IV Thyroid (now metastasized in her lungs) cancer. Hazel lives a typical life as a terminal cancer patient with medication three times a day, a cannula to help her breathe, doctor’s visits, scans, hospitals, reality television, and now, the worst part, a support group lead by an over-enthusiastic cancer survivor (Mike Birbiglia) in a church basement with an adorned rug, affectionately referred to as the Literal Heart of Jesus.
She bumps into a new member of the support group, Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who is in remission from Osteosarcoma and accompanying his friend, fellow cancer patient Isaac (Nat Wolff) at support group. Gus, as his friends call him, and Hazel begin to hang out and develop a romance that as Hazel says, “I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once,” which includes a trip to Amsterdam granted by the Genie Foundation (similar to Make-A-Wish) so Hazel can meet her favorite author, Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe). Hazel and Gus receive news that changes their romance forever, and as many “TFiOS” fans know, bring out the tissues in an examination of what it means to live when given a limited amount of days.
One of the things many fans worry about when a book becomes a novel is how true will the adaptation be to the original story. Fans of “TFiOS” who have not seen the film yet need not worry: Josh Boone, the director behind “TFiOS,” made sure the film served the book as much as possible, with a script by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber that rang true to the book and included fan-favorite phases like “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you,” “Maybe Okay will be our Always,” “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” and “Life is Not a Wish-Granting Factory,” as well as incidences like the Night of Broken Trophies, the group egging of Issac’s ex-girlfriend Monica (Emily Peachey)’s car, The Last Good Day, and Hazel and Gus’ first kiss at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Even minor details, like Gus’ Indiana Pacers Jersey that was mentioned in the book from Gus and Hazel’s first date and quotes from supporting characters like Hazel’s mom (Laura Dern) saying “I’m not going to be a mom anymore” aren’t overlooked.
Every performance was spot on, especially Woodley as Hazel, giving a heart-wrenching performance that made you feel every emotion possible from joy to absolute despair. But the real standout is Ansel Elgort as Gus. He manages to take Augustus Waters from Pretentious Teen to a young man dying and scared of oblivion in an arc that was truthful, natural, and real — a true revelation of a performance that makes you excited to see what is next for him.
Wolff gives a wonderfully comedic turn with heart as Isaac, and in supporting roles, Hollywood veterans Dern, Dafoe, and Sam Trammel (Hazel’s Dad) give the sturdy adult voices the film needed for grounding the story in reality.
With Nerdfighteria being a huge part of why the film was made, “TFiOS’” publicity and traction have been based heavily in social media, and it’s felt in the film. One of the exceptional portions is how text messages and emails are portrayed. Instead of showing the physical email or the text on the screen as many films do, texts pop out in handwritten doodles, showing how young Hazel and Gus are, as well as showing emails they’ve received as they’re written.
The production design also honors the well-known colors of the book-a light blue similar to cerulean-with brightness despite a dire backdrop. The film leaves you not only emotionally drained after taking a rollercoaster of love and life but also considering gratitude for what we have in our short time on earth. In other words, “The Fault in Our Stars” is an astronomical success in what it means to live and how we choose to spend our time, regardless of what our circumstances are.
Kylie Sparks is an actor, writer, producer, singer, and pancake enthusiast living in Los Angeles. She owns a pug and a pug-mix and is an avid fan of brunch, SoulCycle, and Bradley Cooper. You can find her on Twitter/Instagram @kyliesparks, or via her website kyliesparks.com.