There are a few things in this life that you should never do. That list includes but is not limited to: crossing Boylston Street at Tremont against the light, passing by your favorite coffee shop without getting a cup, and reading a book before you see it as a movie.
Committing the latter is particularly unforgivable if you read a book because you are anticipating seeing the movie. If a trailer is powerful enough to move you to tears while you sit at your office desk, there is an incredibly high chance that the film it’s made from is based on an incredibly well-written book (if it were based on a book at all).
All that being said, I broke the third rule.
A couple of months ago I watched the trailer for “The Fault in Our Stars” and it hit me like a veritable freight train. I was so moved that I had to read the book, so a few weeks later, I went on vacation, downloaded the novel onto my iPad, and tore through John Green’s young adult masterpiece like a voracious middle-schooler, hungry for a literary infinity.
When I saw the movie on Tuesday night I was prepared to welcome that freight train episode all over again. I knowingly planned to go solo to the screening because no one likes to sit next to a girl with tears trickling down her face, but I hardly cried. No train.
This isn’t to say that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort didn’t hit the majority of movie-goers like said freight train (the last time I heard that much sobbing in a theater was when I was 9 years old at “Titanic”), but when you’re as emotionally vested in a pair of characters like Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Elgort), disappointment is inevitable. Just like oblivion.
While the people around me were sopping up their stifled sobs in their sleeves, I spent the film’s 125 minutes jotting down events from the book’s timeline that were missing; the names of characters who were never developed. Check out my chicken scratch and you’ll see how pissed I was that Hazel’s dad doesn’t cry in the film — not once.
FYI, he’s a serial crier in the book.
I pictured Elgort, 20, and Woodley, 22, as Gus and Hazel while I read the story of the cancer-stricken star-crossed teenage lovers, but seeing the story on screen was a major let down. It was almost as if the duo’s on-screen performance was a dress rehearsal for the real thing — the version that I’d already played out in my head.
The mother-daughter dynamic between Hazel and Frannie (Laura Dern) was meek at best. The chemistry between Hazel and Gus just wasn’t palpable. Hazel looked too healthy to be dying. Isaac seemed far too good at throwing eggs to be blind.
The moral of the story here is: you should never read a book before you see as a movie. “The Fault in Our Stars” is the perfect example of why.
Some things are just better left to the imagination—especially if that imagination belongs to John Green.