Saturday, June 7, 2014


     Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of my first love. It is normally a day that I find myself busying my way through a list that makes Santa’s pale in comparison, just to keep the thoughts at bay. But, instead, I burrowed in on my home world, and spent the entire day cuddling and talking with the true loves of my life, my children. Focusing upon them helped the thoughts of sadness that still trickle in, even after so very long, dissipate into the air. I pushed happiness of the now into all of the holes of emptiness from long ago. Then, like an intuitive little fairy who finds the path to your deepest feelings, my oldest, without knowing what day it was for the mommy, asked me to spend the evening with her at the movies. “Bring your Kleenex,” she said. It sounded like a perfect place to maybe burn off the excess emotional energy in a flourish, via a good old-fashioned sad ass love story.
 Once inside the theater, the buzz in the air sounded as though we'd been dropped into the core of a bee hive. Excited chatter gave way to a camaraderie that I only remember having witnessed during the initial screening of Sex In The City the movie. Looking around, we saw the hunormous movieplex audience of wall to wall girls and women, but for a stray male date here and there. Now, the Neilsen ratings folks handing out surveys at the entrance to the theater made sense. Twenty-one minutes of bad demographic-skewed previews later, we were dropped into the world of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teen girl whose constant fashion accessories are an oxygen tank and her cancer. Hazel tells us right off the bat that this is not to be the happy-go-lucky love story we might be used to. She promises that what we will witness is The Truth. And it is assumed that is what we all want, and I like her for setting that out as the welcome mat. What unfolds over the next 125 minutes is the love story of Hazel and the plucky, cute boy, Augustus, who she meets after reluctantly attending a teen cancer support group. 


It’s based upon a book that flew off the shelves and into the hands of teen girls, and secretly, some teen boys, as well as a lot of women in the 18-55 demographic, and into the hearts of those very readers. Shailene Woodley expertly and sweetly worked her way into the hearts of her audience with a performance that was pitch perfect as she presented us with a girl who refused to fall into the sappy, maudlin mess that she was entitled to, given the fact that Hazel was dealing with Stage 4 cancer, and the inevitability of her death. That she falls in love with another cancer survivor,  makes it all the more impressive not to have fall into the maudlin.
It has been so widely read, and adored, that most of the people in the theater came in knowing that one of the young lovers would die. But that didn’t keep all of us from being swept up into the drama. Anyone who knows movies, or how scripts go, was able to predict the ups and downs of this particular ride before it ever began.

Plot Point 1:  Sick Girl is lonely. 
Plot Point 2:  Sick Girl meets Boy Who Used To Be Sick. 
Plot Point 3:  Sick Girl eschews Boy Who Used To Be Sick. 
Plot Point 4: Sick girl and Boy Who Used To Be Sick fall in 
Plot Point 5: Sick girl and Boy Who Used To Be Sick decide to 
                     just be friends. 
Plot Point 6:  Sick girl and Boy Who Used To Be Sick fall in 
                      love again. 
Plot Point 7:  One of them dies. 
Plot Point 8: Lesson learned--Love is worth the pain. 
The End.

With Robert McKee in my head, I saw the twists and turns before I even strapped on my seat belt. Even still, this movie got me. The universal language of young love and hope intertwined with our own ideas of love, either by personal experience, or dreams and hopes, and made everyone watching not mind so much that we all knew what was inevitable in the story of Hazel Grace and Augustus. This isn’t an “important” movie. It doesn’t deal with some looming geo-political issue. But it does say something about us. We crave stories of hope. We are willing to look into the abyss of sadness and pull out the love. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber did a fine job on the script, but for the ending, that feels like an add-on once it was discovered that the story was taking too long to tell, and a Dave Chappelle Wrap-It-Up-Box was looming over Director John Green’s head. The ending lacked the depth or realness that the rest of the movie displayed. There’s a missed connection that I don’t think would have been there if they’d bothered to bring a woman on board to give some female juju to the very female-driven visual interpretation.

Final analysis is that it is a lovely story, and a lovely film that shows off the abilities of both Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern as her mother. That they foot faulted in the final minutes, is a shame. But, I say it’s still worth it as a night at the movies. And for this particular moviegoer, it was a cathartic 4-Kleenex reminder that love is worth it, no matter what.