A comfortably watchable movie can be a good thing. There are times, many, many of them, when all you want to do is sit down and watch something that entertains without forcing you to fire up much, if any, of the old gray matter. Sink into the comfort of familiarity, fun, and relaxation. When that’s what you’re looking for, do not choose The Fault In Our Stars.
I started watching it pretty much only knowing that it’s a weeper and that I loved the soundtrack I’d already bought. Early on I was, like, oh, poor Hazel. This is going to be a sad, sad, story about the plucky but doomed girl trying to get through what’s left of her life. Well, yes. But. And a big, big but, at that. Lots of them, actually.
All those “buts” herald twists.
Twists in fiction have become something of a taboo. I’ve always loved them when they’re well done. In books, movies…even life…a well placed twist can be a wonderful thing. They usually come at the end and leave the reader or watcher at least a little stunned. In a good way, if it’s a good twist. In screenplays, though, scenes need a “button” at their ends. Something to keep those pages turning. Some of them can be mini twists. Not too many or it gets too twisty. The ends of acts, though tend by nature to be twists of some sort. Perhaps they’re subtle, but they are called turning points for a reason.
The very nature of The Fault In Our Stars turns on twists. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it went somewhere else entirely. Instead of becoming annoyed or impatient, I was thrilled to see what happened next. Those mental buttons kept me turning mental pages.
This movie is at its heart a tale of the strength of the human spirit. Survival and loss live side by side with love and grasping to cherish joy. Hazel and Gus take us on an unexpected journey, literally and metaphorically. They also share with many viewers a love of books. A particular book informs their lives and its author teaches them a cynicism that their bittersweetly tragic lives could
not. Lovers of books don’t really want to be confronted with such emotional sacrilege, but these characters’ experience with their favorite author changes all of their lives in profound and lasting ways. It’s worth the discomfort watching it causes.
So this is a movie about many things that bleed onto and into each other, and twist from one to the other, until the whole is like a bent and gnarled tree that is so fascinating to look at that it becomes unforgettable. The Fault In Our Stars is not easy to watch and it’s hard to forget.