The Fault in Our Stars: The Bees Review

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This past Friday, June 6, 2014, something happened that all three of us have been waiting a while for: The official release of the movie The Fault in our Stars. Here we will give our opinions and reviews of the movie.

Note: All three of us have read John Green’s book before watching the movie adaption.

Colleen:

Here’s the thing about me: one of the things I hate more than anything is crying in public. So generally, even when I see really sad movies I don’t really cry.

This movie made me cry.

Granted it wasn’t the full out sobbing some people in my theater were doing, but if a movie can make tears fall down my face it has to be pretty well done.

I attended the promotion ‘The Night Before Our Stars,” which, for those of you who don’t know, was a promotion the movie where the night before the movie officially premiered they played a screening that was immediately followed by a simulcast with Josh Boone (director), Wyck Godfrey (producer), John Green (author), and the three stars, Shailene Woodley  (Hazel), Ansel Elgort (Augustus), and Nat Wolff (Isaac) in which they answered fan questions about the movie. The simulcast also featured concerts by Birdy, Nat and Alex Wolff and a showing of John Green’s cameo that was cut from the final production. With my ticket I also got an exclusive poster and a bracelet. I thought this was a great way to end the movie and it was a really cool promotion that let viewers peel back the curtain on the making of the movie.

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John Green in his (cut) cameo

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I really enjoyed the movie. It’s been a little bit since I read the book, the last time I read the book was in January right after the trailer came out, so I’m a little fuzzy on the exact details of the book. Fuzziness aside, I found it to be really true to the book. The stuff that was cut out from the book didn’t have an impact on the overall story. As well, the team kept in many small details from the book (such as a poster from The Hectic Glow on Hazel’s wall to the Swedish rap song Van Houten inexplicably plays during their meeting) that they didn’t need to leave in, but are sure to make fans of the book happy.

The movie was incredibly well acted. As much as I loved the three main characters Laura Dern, who plays Hazel’s mother, stole the show. She amazingly portrayed the struggle of having a daughter with a terminal illness and not being able to fix her. She had a lot of subtle moments that showed her pain and fear along side her love for her daughter. She played the confusion and sadness in a way that it was completely believable and not at all over the top, which it could have easily become. One scene between her and Hazel (I won’t say which for those of you who have yet to see the movie) had me crying the hardest of any scene.

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The three main actors all excelled in different ways. A criteria I have for judging acting is whether or not I feel like I’m watching an actor play a character or if I feel like I’m simply watching the character and at many moments in this movie I felt like the actors had disappeared and I was watching the story of Gus and Hazel falling in love.

Shailene Woodley clearly had a deep understanding of Hazel’s character and it really showed in her performance. You could see her falling in love with Gus and her inner conflict about getting attached, and letting someone get attached to her, when she suffers from a terminal disease and has numbered days. She played the character at the right level. At no point did her performance turn towards a cheesy love story, you could feel the raw emotion being played out on the screen.

Ansel Elgort did a fantastic job as well. In the book, Gus is extremely pretentious. I’ve always felt that while I fell in love with Gus on paper, I might not be able to tolerate him if I were to meet him in real life. This led me to have my reservations about Gus’ transformation from page to screen. I shouldn’t have worried. Elgort, and the screenwriters, reigned in the pretentious comments, and when they were used they were delivered in such a way that you could understand what motivated them. Elgort had so many subtle actions that showed what motivated Gus. The gas station scene was so well acted by Elgort that I found myself having to look away at points.

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Nat Wolff was probably the perfect choice for Isaac. After watching interviews with him and the simulcast following the movie it’s clear he’s an incredibly intelligent and witty person, which played so well into Isaac’s character. I loved Isaac in the book (arguably more than Gus, sorry not sorry) and I loved him just as much on screen. We saw Isaac go from almost nauseatingly in love, to angry and frustrated, to confused and emotional. There were some scenes where Isaac would do something in the background or have a small line that I would laugh out loud at garnering some weird looks from my fellow movies goers.  His scenes made me laugh the most, but they also made me cry the hardest. I wish we had seen more of his character and Isaac’s relationship with Hazel, but Wolff did amazing things with the parts he was given. I mean my love for Nat Wolff might be blinding me because, let’s be honest, he’s great.

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Overall, I really loved this movie. The production team wanted to make a good movie, and actually cared about the book and it really showed in the end product. If Hollywood wants to continue to make books into movies (and we all know they will) they should turn to The Fault In Our Stars as a blueprint. While I still prefer the book, I don’t want to watch a movie that’s exactly the same as the book, but I also don’t want something nearly unrecognizable. There’s a fine line between too much and too little and The Fault in Our Stars struck the perfect balance.

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I call this piece “Selfie feat. The Night Before Our Stars”

P.S. don’t let the smile fool you. This movie will emotionally devastate you

Amanda:

I was hesitant to read The Fault in Our Stars at first because I am stubborn and hate people telling me what to read and what to listen to. However, I finished TFIOS in a matter of tearful hours in my dorm room this past winter. As many have said before me, the story isn’t just a love story, or a cancer story, it is a believable adaptation of something that could actually happen in real life. We see incredible love stories as well as heart wrenching cancer stories every day. What is unique about TFIOS is that it combines those two, obviously. While Hazel and Gus are deeply in love, you never get the sense that their love clouds their judgment, or makes them believe in miracles that usually just don’t happen. They embrace the time they have together with grace and poise, not once hating the fact that they both have terminal illnesses and won’t grow up to get married and have beautiful and genius kids.

I like to believe that I am a realist, someone who tries to keep in mind that life frequently doesn’t go your way, but I often find myself falling for the sappy romance movies and books (oh come on, 27 Dresses and Pride and Prejudice are magical there’s no doubt). TFIOS is a modern realistic love story. Cancer is a big part of life today, and therefore death from cancer happens way too often for our liking. But that doesn’t mean love is dead.

To be honest, I was shaking with excitement while walking into the theatre to see this movie, but I was still scared. Movie adaptations of books have been on both ends of the spectrum in our lifetime (from the horrid Twilight movies to the incredibly well done Hunger Games). Naturally this adaptation could have ended up being horrible. But it wasn’t.

This is mainly because of, in my incredibly important opinion, the casting. When I heard that Shailene Woodley would be Hazel, I was a little irritated because she had gotten started on the laughable Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family. She did redeem herself by her performance in The Descendants, but I was still a little weary. I did not take her very seriously, to be honest.

She blew my mind though. She looked like a Hazel. She was thin, as Hazel should have been. Her face was round, as Hazel’s should have been from the chemo and meds. Heck, she even dragged her oxygen backpack as I imagined Hazel would. Woodley did not fall into the an-older-actor-playing-a-much-younger-character-and-it-is-obvious trap. She made Hazel look natural, like a teenage girl who also happens to have cancer.

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Ansel Elgort did this as well. In the book Gus is incredibly handsome, muscular and witty. Elgort was all of these without the Hollywood made face and body. His boyish charm was adorable to watch. I’m obsessed with him.

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I also really liked Van Houten. Willem Dafoe was the opposite of what I imagined him to be, but I liked it! While reading the book I thought the insane author would be short, fat, bald and pale. I liked Dafoe’s character though, and he captured Van Houten’s insane and lonely personality very well, especially during the scene in Hazel’s car.

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Before I get to my favorite character in the story, I want to mention Mike Birbiglia as Patrick, the awkward and middle-aged support group leader. Birbiglia is a comedian, and his performance made me laugh. Maybe it was Hazel’s monologue about Patrick’s ball cancer that got me. Although his screen time was short, he made a lasting impression on me.

Now, it is no secret that Isaac is one of my favorite fictional characters ever. This list also includes Izzy from Grey’s Anatomy, Jack from Titanic and Johnny from The Outsiders (all very important characters as you can tell). As I have mentioned earlier, I love this story because it is very believable and real. That being said, Isaac is as real as it gets. He is totally and unmistakingly blindly in love at the beginning, heartbroken after the snitch Monica breaks up with him, and then confused and agitated because of his cancer saving surgery that requires him to become blind. In the book Isaac kept surprising me, with the things he said and the way he set aside his own struggles to cherish his last moments with Gus. What a friend, what a friend.

Nat Wolff was perfect. Although Isaac is tall, lanky and blond in the book, Wolff fit the mold. His physic didn’t take away from Elgort’s Gus, or Woodley’s Hazel. Not that he is ordinary looking, but he was able to play such an important part without stealing attention from the two protagonists.

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I am officially obsessed with Nat Wolff omg *swoon*.

The only disappointment with the movie I had was that some of my favorite dialogues involving Isaac didn’t make it into the final product, but it was already two hours long and everything else was well done, so I can’t complain too much.

I loved Elgort and Wolff’s interaction in the movie. It pointed out their friendship without going into every detail of its history. The trophy scene was great, as was the eulogy scene (this one in the book truly got to me, ugh). They were believable.

Overall I cried a lot during the movie, but that wasn’t a surprise. But it isn’t really about how much we all cried, it is about the elements of the story that made us cry. Sure, Nicholas Sparks’ novels that get made into movies have an element or elements of sadness embedded in the storylines, but because TFIOS is so real, we are able to believe it more, and thus, cry more. Not that crying in a Nicholas Sparks movie is bad, I mean, A Walk to Remember is a classic.

The whole thing reminds me of Frozen. Hazel didn’t need Gus’ love to save her life, because her trial medicine was working anyways, but it just made her want to live that much more. Gus wasn’t her miracle, just someone who made her (and his) time left on Earth worthwhile. *Warning, a Frozen spoiler is in the next sentence* Ana didn’t need a true love’s kiss to save her, she needed an act of true love, that could come from or be directed at anyone, even her reclusive sister. Both Hazel and Ana didn’t need men to save them. That is the modern day version of a love story, and Josh Boone (the TFIOS director) nailed John Green’s one of many masterpieces perfectly.

Now I just really want to go to Amsterdam. Brb, looking at plane tickets now…

Kelly:

At the theater I went to, a girl proudly stated that she didn’t drop one tear for The Fault in Our Stars.

I’d like to ask her if she lost her soul before seeing the movie.

            First, let me admit that I’m a crier. I tear up about movies, TV shows, old people, dogs… the list goes on. This movie, however, was the first to make me leave with a headache from crying. My mom, who went to see the movie with me, even remarked that she felt “exhausted” after watching such an emotional film.

            That being said, the exhaustion was worth it. Josh Boone does an amazing job of creating an impactful stand-alone film while satisfying TFIOS novel fans as well. As a reader of the book, I was glad to see how loyal Boone was to the plot (quoting directly from chapters!), and was generally unaffected by any novel omissions. I will say that the video game interaction between Isaac and Hazel was the only scene I was disappointed to not see on screen.

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            I was also very relieved to see that the film does not romanticize the characters’ illnesses, as it would have detracted from the reality this movie (and book!) portrayed. Hazel’s cannula and Augustus’ missing leg were never sugarcoated; Augustus confessed insecurity on how people would perceive his amputation, and Hazel expressed constant frustration at her inability to breathe properly. The hospital visits were shown, the parents’ pain was visible and death became a recurring topic. I felt that this was a good way to remind audiences that, yes this is a love story between teenagers, but the illness is not the romantic part.

            This movie was so well casted; the casting director deserves an Oscar just for her success (if that’s a category). I have never been so impressed by all the actors and actresses involved in the film!  Each brought their own touch, and I found myself in awe with how they fleshed out their characters.

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            Shailene Woodley stars as Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old cancer patient who deals with thoughts like, “Does he like me back?” to “What will happen to my parents after I die?” There was something subtle about Woodley’s acting; all of her dialogue felt natural. As Hazel experienced grief, joy, etc, you felt the emotions with her. Due to this, I wasn’t sobbing about Hazel, I was sobbing with her.

            Ansel Elgort exhibited the right dosage of pretentiousness needed for Augustus Waters. I was worried that his personality wouldn’t translate well book to film, but I personally believe that it worked on screen. I especially loved Elgort’s acting range; he could be cocky in one scene and completely vulnerable the next without feeling abrupt. The gas station scene was heartbreaking… that is all I will say on the subject. (Ansel, if you’re reading this… I am single.)

            If there was one character that broke my heart repeatedly, it was Hazel’s mother played by Laura Dern. The movie was centered around Hazel’s family more than the book was, and I found that this was the one thing I liked in the film more. Watching Hazel’s parents influence and participate in her daily life helped me feel Hazel’s greatest fear: the fear of immeasurably hurting her parents with her death. Dern plays Hazel’s mom as optimistic and supportive, but the on-edge look in her eyes show the fear she feels daily for her daughter’s life. Whenever there was a scene between Hazel and her mother, I immediately teared up. A particular flashback scene broke me.

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            There are only three things that bothered me with this film. The first was the music in the film. Don’t get me wrong; I’m probably going to buy the CD for my car. However, I listened to the album before going into the movie. When the song would play, it would pull me out of the film and have me go, “oh it’s that song by insert artist here.” That’s my fault, but it still tainted the film for me a bit.

            The second was the lack of screen time for Isaac (Nat Wolff). Wolff did an amazing job portraying Isaac, so seeing him only for a limited time was upsetting. However, Wolff will get his time to shine in the next John Green book to screen adaption Paper Towns. (Nat, if you’re reading this… I am single).

The third was the different interpretation of Hazel’s father from book to film. In the book, Hazel’s father was very sensitive and would cry constantly. In the novel, he barely shed a visible tear (unless it was with the mother). I don’t know why it was changed… Maybe it would have caused too many tears, but it was certainly a disappointing omission.

            In all, The Fault in Our Stars exceeded all of my expectations, and left me crying. Some tears were from the movie itself, and some were from the relief of a successful book to movie adaption. Go see it. Go see it and bring Kleenex. You’ve been warned.

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Thanks for reading! Go see The Fault in our Stars at a local theater today! (That just sounded like a radio ad)

-All Three Bees

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