In case you’ve missed this cultural phenomenon entirely, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a book where two kids meet and fall in love in a cancer survivor support group. Trust me, I know. Just keep reading.
Ahhhh! *gnashes teeth* This is a terribly hard one for me. The Fault in Our Stars has held firm (for years) to one of the hotly contested spots in my Top Five Favorite Books list.* And deservedly so. It’s tears-in-your-eyes funny, soggy-pile-of-tissues sad, and stare-in-jealousy-at-John-Green wise. This coming from a girl who refuses to read cancer books, and avoids sad books at all costs.
Of course that means I expected the movie to be terrible. Even if it wasn’t terrible, I certainly wouldn’t notice, because I would be busy snootily insisting that the book was Better, Prettier, Smarter, Bigger Busted and generally preferable in every way. I was well on the way to being vindicated when I heard about the casting. Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley? What? Weren’t they brother and sister in that Divergent movie? Ick! How are they supposed to be cancer kids in love? Especially since Elgort was about as interesting as a chunk of manure-clumped mud in Divergent. Don’t take my word for it. Let’s have a look at the evidence.
First Shailene Woodley in Divergent. A little vulnerable, but patently a badass:
And now, Ansel Elgort, her screen brother in Divergent.
I believe the word you’re looking for here is “Meh.”
So with that kind of chemistry to look forward to, you can see why I was hesitant to get excited. However, I didn’t give the proper amount of credit to the actors involved.
In the first scene, I ate all my words (and my husband ate most of my popcorn, because I was too enthralled to mount a proper defense). Ansel Elgort WAS Gus. He was charismatic, and flippant, and just way too damn charming for his own good. Then, the ballbusting Woodley dialed it back to an out-of-breath but still sarcastic teenager without an extra eyelash flutter of effort. Just LOOK at them together:
So cute, right? This is the only example I’ve ever seen in a movie where romantic chemistry wasn’t a fact of nature, it was actually an artifact of Good Acting. Not the easiest thing to pull off.
So the love story was a total win onscreen. And another point for the movie: the Holland scenes were better. They were kind of long and weird in the book. I mean, come on, did Holland sponsor the making of this novel or something? Oh, what’s that you say? There was a fellowship involved, so kind of a little bit yes they did…Hmm, that makes lots of sense. Green’s amazing metaphors about life and death were clearer in the shorter form of a film, though they seemed even more wise when contained in the silent offering of typed words.
The movie did lose a point for me in its sense of humor. It was good, but the same jokes in the book were oddly not as funny on the silver screen. And my favorite scene in the book (The Night of the Broken Trophies! *All TFiOS fans stop to “Awwww” for a second*) was just not as good in the visual medium. Overall though, these were small details and I thought the movie stayed very true to the page. But then AGHHHH! The ending!
The ending left me shaking my fist and whispering furiously to my husband, because OF COURSE THEY BUTCHERED THE END! That’s what movies do, right? Somewhere at a conference table in Hollywood there are a ton of movie producers, doing the evil tappy fingers, drinking champagne, and dreaming up mediocre movie endings. I assure you, their hands impugned this (otherwise great) movie. Until the ending, it followed the book! It had fantastic acting! It gave us the horrific visuals of the truly sick! And then SLAPINTHEFACE they get to the ending speech, and it sucks. I went home and read the original ending—twice—and swore. And emailed my friends. Thus…
Book. All the way. The movie was a great translation, way better than expected, but you should pause it three minutes from the end and go read the one in the book. It’s only fair.
Up next on Book vs Movie: The Hunger Games. Just kidding, I love all the Hunger Games movies. So there’s no point in doing a cage match there, unless you really really want one. Feel free to vote in the comments. Actually, I think I’ll do “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman, because it was a sneak-attack SOFREAKINGGOOD kind of book. But first, I think I will take a break to do a different kind of post…a SECRET kind of post.
*If you want to know WHAT those top five favorite books of mine are, stay tuned. I might be giving out a hint or two soon.