On Saturday, I went to see the movie adaptation of John Green's The Fault in our Stars. Green is an extraordinary writer. The screenplay writers did a great job with the movie version. They followed the details of the book very well and I didn't feel like the plot was compromised, as I do in many movies made from books. Do I think the book was better? Yes. And I'll tell you why.
When I gave my ticket to the girl at the entrance of the theater, she directed me down the hallway and asked if I had tissues. " Seriously," she said. "Everybody that comes out of there is bawling. Look at them." She pointed toward the people exiting the second theater showing the movie.
I had read the book I knew what was coming. So yes, I did stop at the bathroom and grab a handful of toilet paper. Just to be prepared. And although I wasn't reduced to wracking sobs, like the teen girls down the row from me, I was glad I had it.
When the movie was over, I watched a grown man exiting the theater wipe tears from his eyes. Someone exited the theater through the fire door and light flooded the rows of weeping girls. One young lady burst out, "Turn it off! Nobody needs to see me crying." A woman in the row behind us answered, "It's all right, honey. Everybody in here's crying."
Yes it was a good story. Yes there was a lot of truth in it. But, I have to admit, I felt like the movie was emotionally manipulative. I don't think that was John Green's intention. And I certainly did not feel that way in the book. Although it was emotional and touching and very sad, Green never dipped into maudlin sentimentality. I know that the book was written out of the author's experience of working with terminally ill patients. And I know it took him a long time to find a way to tell this story. Even with the sadness in the book, I did not feel myself being emotionally manipulated.
So I've been asking myself what was the difference. Spoiler alert.
And what I've come up with is that the book gave me hints along the way. I knew what was coming before Hazel knew. Green let me see a moment of anger between Gus and his mother, an argument questioning his decision to go to Amsterdam. He showed me moments in Amsterdam when when his face screwed up with pain that Hazel did not see. So that when Gus told Hazel about his diagnosis, Green had prepared me, as a reader.
In the movie it was just an emotional jolt. And then a roller coaster ride to the end.
Should you go see the movie? Absolutely. Take your Kleenex, cry your eyes out. Then like the girl down the tow from me said, "Now I have to go home and read the book!"
Only I suggest you read the book first.