The Fault In Our Fiction: A Book & Movie Review

My thoughts are stars that I can’t fathom into constellations.

I saw The Fault In Our Stars movie during the opening weekend. I went to a book club meeting that discussed this book the very next day after I saw the movie. I saw the movie again several weeks later. I’ve been meaning to write this review for almost two months now, but I have been so hesitant to write it, because I want my review to be perfect, just as this book and this movie were both perfect. I have since resigned to the fact that perfection isn’t going to happen.

So here begins my less-than-perfect constellation of thoughts about The Fault In Our Stars.

Firstly, I have a list of movies that I can count on one hand. No, I am not talking about my list of favorite movies of all time, though The Fault In Our Stars belongs on that list. I am talking about my list of movies that make me cry no matter how many times I’ve seen them. One is Bridge to Terabithia. Another is Perks of Being a Wallflower. The thing is, it’s not the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship that brings about the tears, but the parent-daughter relationship.

When Hazel’s mom says, “I’m not going to be mother anymore”, that’s when I first lose it. When Hazel is desperate to know that her parents will “go on living” even after her death, and when Hazel’s mom says that she’s taking social work classes to help families that are going through the same things that they are, that’s when I lose it again.

I know too many (far, far too many) parents who have lost children. I am not a parent, so I cannot imagine what having a child feels like, much less losing a child, but I imagine that it hurts desperately. That’s why I cry in movies where parents lose children, because as King Theoden says in Two Towers, “No parent should have to bury their child.” (Several months ago, I wrong a song for piano because of the unfortunate death of a child in my community. This song came to mind again while writing this, so I thought I would share it with you.)

I’ve had people ask me why I cry during certain movies. Let me start by saying that there are people in my life who prefer nonfiction to fiction and would rather read about something that has happened than something that hasn’t—even if the fiction is realistic. It’s these sorts of people who ask me about my emotional engagement with films. I have always been a huge fan of fantasy—one look at 99% of the content on this website will confirm that statement—but John Green’s books have changed that for me, and I love every one of his realistic fiction young adult novels.

But even when the fiction is realistic, I know the characters aren’t real. When the fiction is not realistic, I know the characters and the fantastical elements aren’t real too. However, there’s this thing called “suspension of reality”. It’s this phenomenon where, for the time when we watch a movie or read a book, when we see the story unfold for us, when we picture the book’s events, our minds make us think that what we’re seeing or reading is actually happening. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I think that, in order to truly enjoy a novel or a movie, you have to suspend reality and really get into the story. At the very least, you have to relate to the story, just as I have above, with the comment that there are many parents in this world who have lost children. You cannot think about that and not feel for them.

As Dumbledore once said, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” After all, it’s “real for us“.

Obviously, it’s far easier to suspend reality when reading a book that’s well written (and therefore not distracting with errors or otherwise poor writing) or when watching a movie that’s well made. The Fault In Our Stars—the book and the movie—are both of those things: well written and well made. Allow me to briefly break it down:

The Writing

The screenwriter was smart, in that he chose to adapt very closely to the original text. So many of the best quotes/really awesome metaphors from The Fault In Our Stars made it into the script:

  • “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
  • “The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
  • “Maybe ‘okay’ will be our ‘always’.”
  • “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
  • “I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”
  • “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”
  • “You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
  • “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”

Oh my gosh, there are so many. I have to stop there. I could have included at least another twenty more. I also love the way the movie starts and how it ends. It starts with Hazel saying: “You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories”, etc, etc, and ends with her saying: “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” What perfect bookends to a perfect movie.

The Actors

Rather than go into great detail as to how all the actors/actresses in the movie were perfect, I’m going to use bullet points again to list the actors/actresses that I thought were perfect. Here they are:

  • Laura Dern is the most perfect of actresses that are perfect. She even looks a bit like and sounds a lot like Shailene, especially when she laughs. She’s got that whole overprotective mom thing down. And let’s not forget that she can make me weep like no other when she says “I’m not going to be a mother anymore”.
  • Shailene Woodley is incredible. The end. Goodbye.
  • Ansel Elgort looked the part and played the part well. Maybe not as well as Shai, but very well indeed.
  • Nat Wolff is going to be Quentin Jacobsen in the Paper Towns movie and I couldn’t be more excited.
  • Sam Trammel was great as Hazel’s dad. He does sarcastic very well.
  • As for Willem Dafoe, I was expecting someone a little heavier-set, but he certainly adequately made me hate the character of Peter Van Houten all over again. Favorite quote: “We need to fake pray now”.
  • Lotte Verbeek is my honorable mention, because she is just so delightful as Lidewij.

The Music

Let’s just say that “Boom Clap” was playing in my head for days on end after seeing the movie both times. The rest of the score/soundtrack is also awesome, but that song was my favorite. It’s just so catchy. Here it is:

It appears as though I’m winding down to the end of this review. You may think it was good review, or you’re welcome to think it was terrible. Either way, this review wasn’t perfect, and that’s “okay”.

What was your favorite part of the movie? Share your thoughts in the comments!