With the recent release of the latest book from young adult author and icon John Green, it seems fitting to revisit another disturbing chapter of my childhood: my sister’s obsession with “The Fault in Our Stars” (2012).
My sister might be the smartest person I know, and in high school she was known for always carrying around a book, whether it be Atwood or Ishiguro or Thoreau. You could go ahead and call her an intellectual.
But there stands one blip on her grand story of literary discovery. For a long period that might not quite be over, she counted Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” as her favorite novel, and that infatuation continued with the offensively awful film adaptation — a movie that might seem profound if you ingest psychedelics before viewing.
Gone are the days when high school movies addressed the realities of American teenagers, when “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) and “Dazed and Confused” (1993) offered up something candid and occasionally enjoyable. With the release of the 2014 film adaption, a new era has been ushered in, one where all teenagers talk like English professors and nuance is abandoned in favor of tear-inducing oversentimentality.
I saw this movie quite reluctantly in theaters upon its release and remember being struck by the moans and crying of those around me. A middle age man positioned right in front of me repeatedly would let out a bellowing sob that can only be put into words as “Unnhhhhhhhhhhgggghhh.” It was upsetting then, and it’s upsetting now.
I won’t waste time with plot summary, because you definitely saw this movie or at least read the book as one of your high school “independent reading” projects focusing on the theme of tragedy. Buried somewhere in the metaphors that literally bash you in the head repeatedly and the sad scenes that also literally bash you in the head, there is a character supposedly played by Willem Dafoe. I say supposedly because it remains a possibility that the filmmaker simply showed up to the real Willem Dafoe’s house and filmed him until he got kicked out.
There’s also a performance from Laura Dern, who took a break from her usual legitimate acting gigs to sort of cry every so often on camera.
But what really brings the trainwreck together are the quotes. Do you not get enough pretentiousness in your Philosophy 1 class? Do you have a desire to listen to ridiculous literary references that pretend to be relevant to the story? Do you want to watch as the screenwriters put the words love, forever, nothing and everything into a randomizer and just use the results? This movie is for you.
Both stars, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, have used the movie as a springboard towards much better projects, but you have to wonder if they will look back in old age and question why they spent months of their lives making a movie that’s really just a film version of that person from your high school whose Instagram bio says, “Life is short, make the most of it (heart emoji).”