The fault in my plan

Guest columnistJuly 9, 2014 

I had a plan.

In the name of journalism excellence, I was going to go see “The Fault in Our Stars” and write a funny, snarky column about how it wasn’t even that sad. Sure, I knew there would be death and sickness posturing its way between the two characters, but there was no possible way it was as tear-wrenching as people made it out to be. I was even ready to make fun of all the people who would be sobbing in the theater.

Turns out, I was way off. It was that sad. Devastatingly tragic.

It started out as expected. I received the expected smirk from the ticket taker going in (I guess it’s funny to see a 20 year-old male present a ticket to a movie like this). I sat patiently through seven trailers and pulled out my note pad, ready to embark on my first-ever run as a film critic.

The first half hour wasn’t even too bad. Sure, Hazel (the female lead with stage 4 thyroid cancer) warns us in the first minute that it was going to be a sad story and even apologizes, but I dismiss it. I’m still unfazed. Can’t be that bad.

Gus, the amputee cancer survivor with an unhealthy amount of game, slowly begins to reel Hazel in. They show signs of becoming the “we-both-beat-the-odds” couple everyone loves.

They even spend afternoons on the couch watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (my kind of afternoon). Hope starts to creep in. Yeah, we know they’re both closer to the end of their lives than the beginning, but we all get sucked in anyway. You never know, right?

Then, about 36 minutes in, it starts to go downhill. Hazel, who has metastasis in her lungs that require her to lug an oxygen tank everywhere, wakes up in the middle of the night, unable to breathe. Both her struggle and the looks of sheer terror on her parents’ faces were haunting.

After awhile, she recovers. Her and Gus even take a trip to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite book. It’s for the most part a fairy tale, despite the incredibly rude, boozy author. Hazel and Gus finally acknowledge their feelings for each other. But still, the dark clouds gathered.

Sure enough, the hammer drops. At the end of their trip, Gus tells Hazel that his cancer’s returned and that he doesn’t have much longer. The rest of the movie features Gus’s losing battle – a mix of resignation and despair. Bound to a wheelchair, he has Hazel and his friend Isaac read and recite the eulogies they planned to use at his funeral.

At this point, there were audible sniffs and sobs coming from the 11 people in the theater (two couples on dates, two girls’ night outs). Gus passed away and Hazel’s narration returned, reminding us that it was indeed a tragic story. I should’ve listened to her at the beginning.

If I were a real movie critic, I’d have to say that it was a good movie. The writing, which I’m told followed the novel closely, was quick, cute and smart. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort bring their characters to life in phenomenal fashion (once you move pass the fact they played brother and sister in this spring’s “Divergent”). The actors that play both sets of parents were also sublime, and that was the worst part. Watching the parents prepare and anticipate life after their children was heartbreaking. In the majority of Hazel’s parent’s scenes, you can see the fear and uncertainty in their faces, something I’m sure translates to real life.

The movie ends, I have no material for what was supposed to be a humorous opinion piece and I’m feeling depressed. To me, going to the movies is supposed to be a delightful escape from the real world, where Tom Cruise relives the same day hundreds of times to save mankind and Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill bumble through all sorts of debauchery en route to catching drug dealers. This was real, which is why most people probably liked it. Not me, though.


Austin Cannon is the Journal’s summer intern. He is a journalism student at Drake University and a lifelong Lee’s Summit resident. He does not listen to his friends, family or the Internet when they tell him that a movie is monumentally depressing.

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