Today, the long-awaited and highly anticipated movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, the best-selling Young Adult novel by John Green, is released in Swiss cinemas. To celebrate the occasion, a fan screening was held this past Saturday at the Arena cinemas in Zurich.
At 10:30 am a group of devoted and lucky fans found themselves entering the empty cinema at the Sihl City in Zurich, excited to see the adaptation of one the most influential Young Adult books since Harry Potter. As always with a movie based on a book, a certain amount of anxiety was in the air. Would the filmmakers be able to capture the unique voice and atmosphere of the novel?
A survival kit including a pack of Kleenex was waiting for the moviegoers. After the runtime of 125 minutes, most viewers had at least opened the pack. The Fault in Our Stars is a beautiful and heart-breaking story: And its magic has been transported from the page to the big screen.
The Stars Shine Bright
For anyone who hasn’t read the book (which you definitely should), here is short summary of the story. Hazel Grace Lancaster, played by Shailene Woodley, is a 16-year-old girl suffering from Thyroid cancer and surviving thanks to an experimental drug treatment. She is depressed and spends her days in the company of bad reality TV and her favorite novel “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe). Her mother (Laura Dern) tries to get her out of the house and makes her visit a support group in “the Literal Heart of Jesus”. During one of these meetings Hazel meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who is there to support his friend Isaac (Nat Wolff). Augustus himself survived cancer and lost his right leg in the process. Hazel and Gus build an instant connection and Hazel gets him to read “An Imperial Affliction”. Reading the novel leaves the young man with more questions than answers. Augustus manages to contact the reclusive author, Peter van Houten, who writes that he’ll only answer the questions in person at his home in Amsterdam. After learning that Hazel has used her wish with the Genies (based on the Make-A-Wish foundation) on going to Disney World, Augustus uses his saved wish to organize a few days in the Netherlands. But the travelling as a cancer patient is full of challenges.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is, as the tag line of the movie suggested, one sick love story. Unlike other romantic movies, the characters are not perfect and flawless. It is a story with an incredibly diverse range of topics: Dealing with sickness and death, fear of oblivion and of course, first and everlasting love. The whole movie is a roller-coaster ride of emotions culminating in an ending so incredibly sad it left the attending viewers thankful for the provided Kleenex.
The filmmakers, Josh Boone as a director, and the duo of Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter as writers, have done an excellent job at capturing the tone and voice of the book on screen. Of course, fans of the book will always find characters and scenes they would have wanted to see in the movie. The sets are crafted with a meticulous eye for detail and help transport the viewer into the world of The Fault in Our Stars. It is not a perfect movie. Some of the scenes aren’t well-paced and a scene at the Anne-Frank house is close to being cringe-worthy. But these are only details.
The main strength of The Fault in Our Stars as a movie lies in the excellent casting. Shailene Woodley has the unique ability to make her co-stars shine just a little bit brighter than normal, as she showed in Divergent with Toby James, The Spectacular Now with Miles Teller and also in The Fault in Our Stars with Ansel Elgort. Her performance as Hazel is wonderful.
Ansel Elgort as Augustus builds an impressive presence from his first moment on screen. He manages to convey the confidence and vulnerability of his character throughout the movie. Nat Wolff displays brilliant timing and comedic talent without ever letting his character Isaac become a caricature or solely comic relief. This shows especially in the later, more emotional scenes.
Laura Dern and Sam Trammell are excellent as Hazel’s parents, while Willem Dafoe gets the unglamorous task of being the movie’s most unlikeable character. He performs admirably grumpy.
After the screening, it is safe to say that the expectations of the fans had been either fulfilled or even exceeded. The Fault in Our Stars works as a movie: Like the book, it is full of lightness and seriousness, optimism and despair, and joy and sadness.
You should grab a pack of tissues and go see it. Okay? Okay.
In Front of the Camera
Of course, we weren’t the only ones there. There were about thirty people, all in all. Among them, there was the VideoGang, a Swiss online video project that has their show air on TeleTop as well. They produced a lengthy review of the movie as well. Some of the Uncannies got to talk about the movie on TV. Our segment starts at the 2:29 marker.
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