WARNING – this blog contains many plot spoilers! Now out on DVD, The Fault in Our Stars, known as TFOS by its fans, is a best-selling book adapted to film that has been proclaimed by many to be this generation’s Love Story. Don’t tell this to the movie’s creator or cast who have publicly cringed from the comparison. However, like that film, TFOS is about a young couple who fall in love against the odds, only to have their love tested by terminal illness, all in a tragic tale designed to have the audience leave the theater in tears. Both even have a signature line. In Love Story, the line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, and (maybe as the biggest indicator of the difference in generations) it has been swapped with “Okay”. Yes, you read it correctly – “Okay”. In this movie, “Okay” takes on a special meaning– and it actually plays surprisingly well, but you sort of need to see it to believe it.
That said, TFOS varies a great deal from that romantic predecessor. In brief, the movie is about Hazel Grace, played by Shailene Woodley from the TV show The Secret Life of the American Teen and the movie Divergent. Hazel suffers from pulmonary cancer, forcing her to carry oxygen around wherever she goes. She also carries with her a deep depression, as her incurable disease has made life seem pointless. To appease her concerned parents, played by Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) and Sam Trammel (HBO’s True Blood), Hazel attends a Christian cancer support group for teens where she meets Gus, Ansel Elgort (also from Divergent), who lost a leg to cancer, but is in remission – for now. The handsome Gus befriends the mousy Hazel and the two begin a relationship where they face their common struggle, track down a reclusive author who understands their plight, travel to Amsterdam, and fall deeply in love. Then, Gus’ cancer returns full force just when Hazel has learned to love and live again.
The Fault in Our Stars is a heartfelt and heart-wrenching story that, like most Hollywood movies, offers a mixed universe of good and bad. Smart writing, clever dialogue, solid acting and skilled directing make TFOS a well-crafted film rather than a clichéd, melodramatic movie-of-the-week. That said it is unrepentantly aimed at a female and teenage audience. However, parents need to make sure their kids watch this film in the proper context as it is PG-13.. Parents, especially those of faith, should see PG-13 movies either before their kids see them or at least watch with them. They need to decide if a film is appropriate for their particular children, and they should be there to help give context to the issues or behaviors depicted in these movies.
For example, in TFOS there is crass and sexually charged language throughout the movie. Hazel herself proclaims that she doesn’t believe in God and religion is dismissed or shown in a derogatory light several times in the film. A combination of this can be scene when Hazel talks about the leader of the Teen Cancer Support group. Not only does she discuss his testicular cancer but his leadership of the group is shown as self-righteous and self-serving. Also, Hazel and Gus’ relationship culminates with them sleeping together. This reinforces a morality often promoted by Hollywood that if you love someone, you should have sex with that person, whether or not you are married and regardless of whatever else is going on in your life.
On the other hand, there are many positive aspects of the film, not only in its quality but also in the idea that life is worth living no matter what struggles we face. In addition, there are positive references to faith throughout the film to offset the negative. Hazel’s middle name is Grace and Gus clearly states that he believes in God. There is even a strong hint at the end, that because of their relationship, so does Hazel. Also, the ultimate theme is very positive and that is “love is worth it”. Love Story’s line is “love is never having to say you’re sorry,” but anyone who has been in a serious relationship could tell you that simply isn’t true. TFOS on the other hand says that in order to really love, we must make ourselves vulnerable. To love we must be willing to be hurt and someone we love probably will hurt us, but the risk is worth it. That wisdom has been most powerfully said by Jesus Christ. Look at any cross and realize that love literally killed him. But he felt it was worth it and that love brought us eternal life.
Therefore, there is a lot to recommend The Fault in Our Stars but it does need to be viewed with Wisdom as well as Grace.