Why I Will Probably Never See Another John Green Movie
In a stark contrast to the blubbering snot monster I turned into while reading, I did not cry once during this movie. The only scene that almost got me was the violent outburst Hazel shares with her parents right before Gus’s fake funeral. The underlying story of how Hazel’s mother seems to do nothing with her life but wait on Hazel was one of the most gut-punching parts of the book. To be fair, the movie did it justice, showing her mom waiting for her after support group, or running in anytime there is a problem. One scene sees her scrambling out of a bath because she heard Hazel yell, and comes in the room mumbling about how she has just wanted a few minutes in the tub—not in a begrudging tone, but in an apologetic one.
The outburst scene holds two revelations to the viewers/readers: To Hazel, it’s a relief as she learns that her parents will have a life after her. Her whole post-cancer life has been spent in fear of what will happen to her parents when she’s gone. But to viewers, it’s crushing as you realize that these parents are not only planning for a life after their daughter’s death, but actively prepared for it.
To me, Hazel and her parents are the true love story of the book, and the one that I walked away with the strongest connection to.
I love Augustus Waters, the cocky bastard who starts out as the manic pixie dream boy and turns out to be an insecure, narcissistic boy with good intentions and grand ideas. I love Hazel, with her quiet and determined strength and unflinching sense of reality. But we never saw movie Gus’s character devolution, where the facade cracks and we see the real boy underneath. Movie Hazel is too grounded, magically made mature and reasonable by the all knowing wisdom of cancer.
These small oversights in the movie portrayals were disappointing, but the movie characters didn’t bother me too much. Because the book isn’t about them for me, not really. It’s about my loved ones, my friends, the family of my friends, the lives they have lived and all the events to come.
I’m glad the girls around me in the theatre felt a connection to this story, that they were moved by the sentiment and wrecked by Gus’ death. But for me it felt flat, somehow less. It felt like a perfectly timed machine, playing directly to the hormones of the teenage girls in the audience, and yanking at heartstrings with the cancer card. It felt less like a beautiful work of art meant to make you think about your life and the ones around you, and rather a production screaming “Look, cancer! You have to cry! It’s cancer!”
And that sucks.
Have I become that dreaded person who shits on everything that everyone else loves simply because it’s “popular?” I sincerely hope not. I’ve never considered John Green to be some underground, unknown author. But somewhere along the path of growing up and entering that theatre last week, I realized that the beauty of these books is that even if I outgrow the characters, I will never outgrow the memories that these books provided. Each one speaks directly the various facets of me—be it 15-year-old me wanting rebellion, 17-year-old me wanting to run away, or 18-year-old me grieving the loss of a friend.
These are memories and moments that a movie can never deliver to me, and I think that in the end, that was the hamartia, the fatal flaw, of “The Fault In Our Stars” movie. John Green warns me that it’s a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person. Well it’s also a really stupid thing to believe that a movie will be more than a movie.
And if “Paper Towns” becomes a movie, I’m not going within a hundred feet of it.