Arts & Culture
John Green’s 'The Fault in Our Stars' is better by the book
The Orlando native and champion Nerdfighter’s greatest cause remains combating teen stereotypes
Published: June 11, 2014
The Fault in Our Stars, the movie, has been hyped as a brutally honest depiction of cancer kids. For those who read the book, the hype is substantiated, but what’s depicted on the screen is a mere flicker of the novel’s painful sincerity. Hazel Grace Lancaster, the book’s heroine (played on screen by Shailene Woodley), suffers from thyroid cancer that severely limits her lungs. On the page, Hazel’s story has much more room to breathe – Green consulted with doctors to invent cancer treatments – and she frequently stuns the reader with epistemic abruptness that the film distorts for Hollywood storytelling reasons. A line like “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once” suffers on film by its fairy-tale placement during a sex scene, rather than the novel’s more prosaic romantic timing, alighting this thought in a dull moment when Hazel is watching her future lover read aloud.
The film necessarily lacks some of the novel’s details – some unimportant, like Hazel’s vegetarianism and the existence of her best friend Kaitlyn, but others more pivotally important, like Hazel’s panicked self-comparison to the now-dead girlfriend of Augustus Waters (her romantic interest, played in the film by Ansel Elgort). The film touches on the novel’s dominant question – how important is it to be remembered when you die? – but neglects the novel’s intriguing examination of the insult of passive mourning, a major element of Hazel’s disdain (and identity) at the book’s conclusion.
Theatergoers will be sobbing all summer over The Fault in Our Stars, but if, as the novel asserts, “some infinities are bigger than others” and cancer victims experience “a forever within numbered days,” the movie represents the infinity between zero and one, while the book gives you more of what Hazel decries her body for denying her: the perpetuity that exists between one and infinity.
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