Everybody, break out your tissues. The trailer for The Fault in Our Stars has arrived, and it promises to make everyone cry just as hard in theaters as they did when they first read the book. Based on the novel by John Green, the film follows the love story of Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group, and the ups and downs that come with living you life and falling in love when you’re terminally ill. The Fault in Our Stars also features Nat Wolff as Hazel and Gus’ friend Isaac, Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as her parents, and Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten, the famously reclusive novelist behind the couple’s favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction.
Fans of the book will be thrilled to see their favorite characters finally come to life onscreen and will be especially pleased to note that some of the most beloved and quoted lines will have made the transition along with Hazel and Gus. Sure, we knew that they would find a way to work in the famous “Okay? Okay.” tagline that fans hold so dear, but it seems we will also get the opportunity to hear Gus’ declaration of love and Hazel’s gratitude for the “little infinity” they shared be spoken aloud as well. But, as exciting as that is, hearing the same dialogue from the book makes us a little bit apprehensive, and raises an important question: will The Fault in Our Stars still work as a film, or is the story something that is best experienced on the page?
As lovely as it is to hear Gus confess his love to Hazel, the trailer draws a great deal of attention to the fact that lines that worked so well in text sound a bit awkward and clunky when they’re actually spoken aloud. The sentiment is still there, along with all of the significance the words had when they were written on the page, but rather than having the same poetic impact that they did in the book, they simply come across as cheesy when Elgort says them onscreen. The book has been criticised somewhat for having characters that don’t actually speak like teenagers — how many high school students do you know who regularly describe themselves with violent, yet moving metaphors? — but books afford a bit more leeway in terms of the language that is used to express a particular sentiment. Granted, the dialogue could simply seem clunky because of the way that the trailer is edited; chopping up any long speech into fragments and then reassembling them would make the most eloquent thoughts sound awkward.
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Then there’s the issue of the way that Hazel and Gus’ love story comes across through the trailer. Instead of highlighting the dry, dark humor with which they reference their disease and the challenges that it presents them, the trailer focuses more on the tragedy of their relationship than on the “sick” way that they looked at the world. Green’s book never shies away from discussing the more tragic aspects of their story, and there are times that the story veers into sentimentality, but on the whole, the trailer seems to present The Fault in Our Stars as just another maudlin tearjerker about two kids with cancer.
Of course, all of our reservations may turn out to be unfounded once we actually get to see the film. With a weird edit, or the wrong choice in background music, trailers can easily make a love story seem like a slasher film, or a dark comedy come across as a sentimental drama. We’re hoping that’s the case for The Fault in Our Stars, since taking away the characters’ humor in favor of focusing on the tragedy harms both the plot and the central characters. Amping up the love story for the trailer might also help make it more appealing to moviegoers who aren’t familiar with Hazel and Gus, and thus, wouldn’t appreciate their off-color jokes about cancer. It would be a logical choice, especially considering the small controversy that the poster’s tagline, “One sick love story,” kicked off. It works for the characters, who would probably have said something similar, but for anyone who hasn’t read the books, it just seems to be in bad taste.
Hopefully, once the film comes out, we will find out that we’ve been worried for no reason. After all, Green himself was heavily involved in the film, which should mean that all of the awkwardness and melodrama that the trailer seems to present will be smoothed out in favor of a final product that better conveys the tone of the film, Hazel and Gus. Although, either way, we’ll likely be too busy crying our eyes out to nitpick.
The Fault in Our Stars will be released in theaters on June 6.