My disdain for The Fault in Our Stars’ movie adaptation

There are some points I need to preface this post with before I go forward, so bear with me here. First, and most importantly, I acknowledge that The Fault in Our Stars is young adult fiction. I am not quite part of the target audience, but that didn’t stop me from giving this tremendously popular title a chance. Despite my best efforts to hate the actual novel of TFiOS, I enjoyed it very much. It was far less pretentious and contrived than I thought it would be, and there were a good many moments that stood up to the hype I’ve been hearing.

Secondly, I know that it is impossible to include every detail from a novel in its film adaptation. If that sort of thing actually happened, many of us would still be sitting in a movie theater somewhere waiting for The Fellowship of the Ring to end. I’m only half-joking there, by the way.  I’m not typically the sort of person who goes to the movies to point out every little discrepancy between the film and its book counterpart. Where’s the fun in that? I’d hazard a guess that since I was seeing this movie in part because I’m writing an article that pertains to it, perhaps I was a bit more eager to spot the differences. Especially since, again, I went into the book with quite a number of biases against it (some of those quotes, on their own, sounded extremely contrived).

Keeping these things in mind, I believe I’m ready to dive into what about The Fault in Our Stars‘s film adaptation vexed me so much compared to the book. To air on the side of caution: this likely contains some spoilers.There are differences to be expected between a book and its movie adaptation, of course. To say there is anything less than a tremendous divide between written storytelling and visual storytelling would do both mediums injustice, as they each have powerful, distinct ways of engaging their audiences (let’s play the “state the obvious game”). I accept that as a big factor here, because much of the narrative can’t be expected to translate, verbatim, to the big screen.

That alone could have been enough to let some of the omissions slide. I go into movie adaptations of books expecting little liberties to be taken, and I imagine most people do the same. I even embraced, full of understanding that certain copyrights could be a bother to get around, Augustus and Hazel watching V for Vendetta to just going back to Augustus’ house to watch a movie. That’s acceptable. The slight change in how audiences learn Augustus Waters had to have a leg amputated because of his cancer worked.

What I’d like to know is where, in all of this, was Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn? She may not have been crucial to the plot, but she was a strong character in writing and could have easily translated into a powerful character on screen. The watered down exchanges between Isaac and Hazel during his breakdown, as well as the reduced version of Peter Van Houten, left much to be desired as well. I’m not just talking dialogue here, because I can understand not including every miniscule line from a book. What got me particularly irritated, as I sat as the lone dry-eyed person in the theater, was how so many key exchanges could have been cut. Where was Van Houten answering, then slamming, the door? Readers got an immediate impression of just how much of a scumbag he was before he even started boozing it up. What happened to his and Hazel’s conversation about how An Imperial Affliction was actually about his daughter? One of the very few humanizing moments with Peter Van Houten was instead reduced to a few lines and a throwaway point in the plot.

There are more details I suppose I could go into, but what really left me rolling my eyes was the omission of that damned quote everyone knows from The Fault in Our Stars. “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” That one. Where the hell was that during the heart-wrenching final scenes?

Don’t get me wrong, though.The Fault in Our Stars translated to a movie quite well. I’m sure it’ll earn back its budget and then some, and droves of moviegoers will weep into their popcorn because it is a very strong story. Compared to the source material, however, it feels a bit deflated and lacking. The acting was very good all around, and I would go so far as to say that the supporting cast got the treatment it deserved (as opposed to being cardboard cutouts who help emphasize just how brilliant Hazel and Augustus are). I would have loved to see more of Isaac falling to pieces after his breakup or Willem Dafoe, who will forever be the creepy-as-hell Green Goblin as far as I’m concerned, really showing what he could do with all of Peter Van Houten’s moments.

If I were to somehow approach this with a blank slate for what The Fault in Our Stars would be, I could confidently say this was a pretty decent movie. It felt rushed at points, but it was still an enjoyable piece of cinema. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I can’t do that, simply on the basis that the novel itself was as good as it is, and it would be insulting to John Green’s writing to say the film adaptation stands up to the novel as well as it could have.

Rant over. I’ve got two posts planned that better fit the regularly scheduled programming, so to speak, than this, so at least there’s those to look forward to in the near future.


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