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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Life is short and then you die.

The Fault in Our Stars

Plot Overview

“The Fault in Our Stars” (TFiOS) opens on the eyes of 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lan­caster (Shailene Woodley) gazing at the stars in the sky and contem­plating the “choice in this world how to tell sad stories.” Her story is: “the truth, sorry.” She had inoper­able cancer at 13 and was put on an experi­mental drug that was less than promising. It worked for her despite the pessimism of parents and nurses. They called it a miracle. Her lungs aren't functioning at full capacity, though, so she breathes oxygen through a tube and is not long for this world.

She has a favorite book An Imperial Affliction by the Dutch-American author Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe.) She reads it over and over. It's about Anna a girl with cancer who dies from it. The reclusive author doesn't reply to her hundred fan letters; he doesn't reply to anybody.

literary questionsAt 16 she and a boy 18 Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) in her cancer support group exchange reading interests, and for some reason the author Van Houten, through his assistant, replies to his e-mail and invites him & her to Amsterdam to answer her burning questions about what happened to the other characters in the book after the first-person narrator died—he doesn't send the answer in the open because he doesn't want published an inadvertent sequel. Hazel had already used up her wish from the Genies (a Make-A-Wish—Foundation sort of organization), but Gus still has his, so they arrange to go on it. Unfortunately, her doctor doesn't think she's fit for travel, but then relents for a three day stay instead of six. So they end up in the Nether­lands at the writer's home who refuses then to see them. But his assistant persuades him, and she gets to ask her questions about what happened after the story, to wit: the fate of Anna's mother and her relation­ship with the “Dutch Tulip Man”, and of Anna's pet hamster Sisyphus. They can't just have gone into oblivion when the story ended.

I once knew an old mystic named Harold who'd traveled to Tibet to seek enlightenment from a Zen master. He camped out in front of the gate to his monastery until finally one day the Guru appeared and asked him, “How is every­thing?” Harold replied, “Fine.” At that the master said, “Then you don't need me” and turned around and went back inside. Harold was able to shrug it off with, “I should have said, ‘I'm Fine.’” Hazel had her own parting words: “Go fuck your­self!” [sic].


John Green the author of the book that became this movie is an Episcopalian who, according to an inter­view in “The Sydney Morning Herald,” was enrolled in divinity school to become a minister, with a double major in English and Religious Studies. TFiOS is evidently a cellu­loid rendering of what in Christian circles we call the court­ship vs dating debate. In olden days when people lived in the same village all their life, and they all knew all about each other, intentions were pretty serious once a couple started stepping out together, and their close-knit families had a say in their matches. That was court­ship. Come the mobility of the American frontier west, and now city life, we don't know each other so well, and we use dating to sort out prospective matches. A home-schooled adolescent named Joshua Harris gave up on dating on account of some bad experiences and went back to an older court­ship model, with his family's support, and wrote the controversial book: I Kissed Dating Goodbye. My movie review of “Mr. Wood­cock,” dealing with an author and his stupid book, lends it­self eminently to Josh Harris.

Abraham rejecting Hagar Steve Gregg host of the radio talk show The Narrow Path was discussing this controversy on 8/21/2014. He and the caller found it problematic that men and women are set up for continuity and there­fore find it traumatic to break off serial relation­ships before settling on a permanent match, nor does that prepare them to stick with one mate once married. They prefer the court­ship model instead.

dating / friendship hierarchies Paul Dobransky M.D., in his book The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love, gives the scientific method for a woman to date a man until she realizes he is Mr. Wrong and then break up with him. After enough breakups with Mr. Wrongs, she will eventually end up with Mr. Right whom she'll feel confident marrying. That's the dating method.

From an adult point of view, one wants to not date a person from a class he would never want to marry into, because what would he do if they fall in love? The court­ship vs dating debate frames it bass-ackwards by considering dates auto­matic­ally dead-end adventures. This movie takes their perspective any­way by having adolescent protagonists with life expectancies too short to become adults to marry, and then it looks at the value of dating within such limited time constraints.

In TFiOS Gus's friend Isaac (Nat Wolff) has only one eye left and it's due to be removed. He has a “smoking hot girl­friend” Monica (Emily Peachey) who vows with him to be together “always.” Well, her always wasn't as long as his always, so he ended up blind, with no girl­friend, and traumatized to the point of a psychotic episode hard to deal with. It seems a perfect example to support the court­ship method instead.

Peter Van Houten sets the problem of two going at different speeds resulting in a split as follows: Say you are racing a tortoise that has a 10 yard head start. You run 10 yards but it has gone a yard in that time. This can go on forever, and you'll never pass that tortoise. Because of the “forever” criterion, practitioners of the court­ship method will never break up with some­one not suited for them. I have posted an illustrative story in a relation­ship articles series. Van Houten's solution to the tortoise problem was “Cantor's proof that some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” German mathe­matician Georg Cantor stirred up considerable controversy in his day impinging on philosophy and even religion when many felt there was but a single infinity, the province of God. From my engineering perspective, there are two infinities, count­able and uncount­able, that differ in cardinality. There may be others but they'd be beyond my ken.

In the movie's St. Paul's Cancer Support Group at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, they open with a mesmer­izing song: “Christ is our friend, and He'll be there till the end. Christ, Christ, … .” Author John Twelve Hawks gives us this infinity: (78)

When the person prays, the prefrontal cortex is focused on the words. Mean­while the superior parietal lobe at the top of the brain has gone dark. The left lobe processes infor­mation about our position in space and time. It gives us the idea that we have a distinct physical body. When the parietal lobe shuts down, we can no longer distinguish between our self and the rest of the world. As a result, the subject believes that he or she is in contact with the time­less and infinite power of God. It feels like a spiritual experience, but it's really just a neuro­logical illusion.

All that intense prayer and focus, and then the making out after the meeting left Isaac and Monica a bit discon­nected from earthly reality, where­fore they “don't under­stand the promises they're making when they make them.” Gus and Hazel, on the other hand, wisely decide that “Okay” can be their “Always”.

They start out by following a de facto courtship model but with no hope of ever getting married, so they immerse them­selves in group fellowship (“We're just friends.”) How­ever, after the fiasco with the author of fictional characters (“Nothing happens; they're fictional”), they proceed to the erst­while abode of non­fiction writer Anne Frank (1929–1945) who after her death did leave real family members (a few) behind. Brave Hazel with her diminished lung capacity climbs the stairs—there is no elevator—past Anne's posted diary entry: “I long to ride a bike” of a girl who never would, with the determination of the philosopher who said, (Eccl. 9:10) “What­soever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” and kiss at the top of the stairs kisses a guy (with vigor) to the accolades of the public. Later they can go on to making out, and she'll tell the minister who refers to Gus as her “special friend” that she's his “girlfriend.” To Gus she'll convey that “Some infinities are higher than other infinities. I cannot tell you how thank­ful I am for our little infinity.” She's happy to share a part of him always. This movie shows them having embraced the dating model with emotional maturity and satisfaction even though marriage is not seen as an end.

Venn diagram AB Cantor is best known for having invented set theory. Gus employs it when he draws a Venn diagram with virgins being set ‘A’, and 18-year-olds with one leg set ‘B’. He's in the inter­section of both sets.
Venn diagram ABC Later after they engage in “debauchery” Hazel will have to redraw the diagram placing set ‘A’ out­side of set ‘B’, although technically we suppose they still inter­sect, it's just that Gus is no longer in ‘C’.

Because they had held off from any physical intimacy what­soever until the dam broke, it happened “slowly, then all at once.” They'd have done better at avoiding fornication had they done regular dating from the start, with its com­men­surate proportional intimacies. Isaac and his girl­friend would have done better not to be so focused around the group fellow­ship meetings. This is some­what counter­intuitive, and director Josh Boone has given us a movie that shows the court­ship approach yielding the very results from the dating approach it had tried to avoid.

Production Values

“The Fault in Our Stars” (2014) was directed by Josh Boone. Its screen­play was done by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, lifted whole from John Green's popular YA book The Fault in Our Stars. It stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Nat Wolff. Woodley gave a suitably nuanced performance and the rest held their own. The music draws one in. Amster­dam was beauti­fully photo­graphed by cinema­tog­rapher Ben Richard­son. It was rich in symbolism and in closeups. For some reason every crowd scene in the Nether­lands contained a Negro in it some­where, by accident or design, contrary to Dutch stereo­type.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I appreciated the sly commentary on a familiar religious debate and the use of a controversial mathe­matician (who eventually went crazy as some of them do.) Women tend to weep at the end. It's a little long, but I think it's worth it. A great movie but maybe not a classic.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Twelve Hawks, John. The Traveler. New York: Doubleday, 2005. Print.