Here at The Comeback, a recurring feature called “The Millennial Review” has had young people reviewing movies like Top Gun and Point Break, classics that were released so long ago that it was before the millennials’ time. In the spirit of equal time, I, an old, will spend part of the summer reviewing movies (and other things) geared toward the millennial. This week, it’s the 2014 hit The Fault In Our Stars.

Okay.

In 2014, only 24 movies grossed more money domestically than The Fault In Our Stars, which speaks to the popularity of the John Green novel. Most of the movies ahead of TFIOS are big-budget action films, so this movie’s success speaks to the immense popularity of the Teens Slowly Dying Genre™, which we will probably revisit during this summer series.

I hated this movie. There’s a great movie in here somewhere, but all you get is the skimming of the surface and Gus, perhaps the worst male character in any movie in the history of cinema, all things considered. On the hate scale, it’s nowhere near as infuriating as the final 10 minutes of Garden State (turn it off after the tub scene) but it’s worse than The Dark Knight Rises.

As an old person, I understand that this film was not made for me. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of thoughts about it. Here are those thoughts in no particular order.

THE PLOT

Incredibly attractive teens Hazel (Shailene Woodley, age 22) and Gus (Ansel Elgort, age 20) meet at a cancer support group and of course become boyfriend/girlfriend with a couple of easy obstacles to overcome along the way. There’s a third terminal teen, Isaac, (Nat Wolff, age 20), who should have been the star of this movie but instead is just comic relief.

Somehow, Hazel is younger than Gus, which is sort of tough to believe considering the ages of the actors an the fact that Gus looks like a taller Michael Cera.

Frannie (Laura Dern) and Michael (Sam Trammel), are Hazel’s parents. They are fine. They’re sort of a Zoloft-fueled caricature of easy-going parents who happen to have a child dying of cancer but you have to learn to lower the bar a bit during this movie.

There’s also this guy Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), an American author living in Amsterdam that both Hazel and Gus bond over and eventually go to visit. It’s not said in the movie, but he is hiding out in Amsterdam to avoid this movie.

That’s about it for main characters. Gus’ mom and dad are in the movie and despite it being a burning question throughout the film, it’s never explained why they gave their son the name Augustus and always call him Gus, which is the name of a 70-year-old grandfather who served two tours in Vietnam and drinks hard at the Elks Club every Thursday night, not a teen in 2014.

 

IS HAZEL ACTUALLY DYING?

I re-watched several parts because I thought I was missing something, but why is she considered terminal? She’s on a trial drug that’s working. That one doctor says the drug has prevented any new cancer from forming, although it’s making her more susceptible to other illnesses. Isn’t that good overall? They even say no one has lasted as long as Hazel on the drug.

So I was confused during that scene near the end when Hazel is all, “Ugh, mom, I’m trying to go to a cliché pretend funeral for someone who is still alive, can you stop saying if I die and start saying when I die?” Wait, you’ve gotten no worse over the course of this movie, so why are you so sure you’re going to die?

Anyway, maybe I missed something there. To be honest, this movie is two hours when it should be 90 minutes, so both myself and the film should take the blame here. I choose to believe Hazel lives because after all the crap Gus pulls on her, she deserves it.

 

AUGUSTUS WATERS, GARBAGE HUMAN BEING

Remember the movie Wedding Crashers? At the end, Owen Wilson meets Will Ferrell to get back into the wedding crashing game after Vince Vaughn chooses to get married. Instead of weddings, Ferrell reveals that he’s been going to funerals to meet women, which of course is repulsive, but it works because the women are vulnerable and the idea behind Ferrell’s character is that he is repulsive.

Let’s meet Gus Waters, a dude who goes to a terminal cancer support group and creepily tries to pick up dying chicks.

This is where Gus and Hazel first meet. You see, Gus is not terminal, as he has beaten his cancer but only went along with Isaac, who is losing his eyes, as a friend. Or so he says. Because like 30 seconds into this TERMINAL CANCER SUPPORT GROUP MEETING, this is the look Gus is flashing at Hazel after bumping into her downstairs.

elgortgaze1

What? Bro, you are not at a frat party or a club. You are at a TERMINAL CANCER SUPPORT GROUP and you are eye-fucking a girl who most definitely didn’t leave her home for this. This is the first time we meet this guy, who throws all kinds of game at Hazel. And it’s bad game.

But for the movie to move forward, Hazel, a smart girl, has to fall for this goober’s nonsense about cigarette metaphors. He is at a TERMINAL CANCER SUPPORT GROUP using pickup lines on dying girls.

ELGORTHEYGIRL

HAZELSTARE

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Gus is an overwhelming douchebag. It’s almost as if the writers said, “We can do whatever we want with Gus, because no one will hate him, because no one is going to hate someone that beat cancer.” It’s as if they forgot that it’s very, very easy to hate Lance Armstrong. Gus is Teen Lance Armstrong.

Alas, Hazel falls for this cocky dork and the movie continues. Gus actually says in his first conversation with Hazel, “You’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people.” If he were wearing an shirt with the top three buttons undone and a gold chain, he’d be the guy Leslie Mann blows off while out a club in a Judd Apatow movie. He would say something dumb about how is unlit cigarette is a metaphor and she’d knee him in the balls and that would be the end of his time in the movie.

Gus sucks. He sucks so bad. The whole movie is Hazel is opening up to him about her life and him making shitty jokes about stuff. He’s Chandler Bing with cancer. Gus also lies to Hazel’s dad about his cancer returning and doesn’t say anything to Hazel about it until after he gets to have sex with her. There’s nothing likable about Gus. If this movie was filmed entirely from his perspective, every scene would be him talking to Isaac about how he’s going to lie his way into Hazel’s pants so he can lose his virginity.

At one point, Hazel reads this letter (which she probably has shared with no one) she sent to Van Houten, which never garnered a response from her favorite author. Gus’ immediate response is to call the letter “pretentious,” which is the pot calling the kettle black. Fuck Gus.

Of course, it’s not until Hazel finally gives into his crap and has sex with him does he tell her that he’s dying. In another movie, Gus is a dude that fakes having cancer to hook up and once he does, he tells the girl he’s dying and moves on to the next girl one town over. God, I hate Gus.

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But to Elgort’s credit, once Gus is actually dying, I do feel bad about how much I hate Gus.

That scene was sad. Elgort needs lessons on how to be “cool,” but he can act. It’s just a shame his character was so terrible. I still hate Gus. At no point was I rooting for Gus to die, but it would’ve been nice if he had one true emotion before he had sex with Hazel.

We will come back to Gus in a moment, but let’s take a break and focus on our story’s hero.

 

THE ALCOHOLIC WRITER

This is the only honest response to interacting with Gus in the whole movie and also represents how I felt an hour into the film.

NEEDADRINK

Another scotch and soda, please.

The only issue I have here is he lashes out at Hazel instead of Gus. It feels like misplaced anger. Van Houten should have called out Gus for pretending he read his book. Yeah, that’s right. You know Gus just skimmed message boards and quoted some crap back to Hazel. Van Houten knew it. It’s why he wanted no part of this encounter.

Dafoe is good. He should play a drunk who hates teens in every movie.

 

ANNE FRANK’S HIDING PLACE MAKES TEENS HORNY

This is, by far, the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time. After Van Houten says very mean things to Hazel and Gus about having cancer, they do the only normal thing you’d do in that situation — visit Anne Frank’s home and make out in front of people on the museum tour, people that may have relatives who died in the Holocaust.

After a very traumatic event in which Hazel’s idol is basically like, “Whatevs, go have cancer and die already,” Gus doesn’t throttle his boner into neutral for a moment. He’s got his hands on her whenever she becomes exhausted from lugging her oxygen tank up the stairs while Frank’s words are read over a loudspeaker.

If there was ever a time when Gus and Hazel were NOT going to get together, it would be here, because the gravity of the… nope, they’re going to make out in Anne Frank’s attic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw55iWmLdPE

And… AND… they get APPLAUSE for making out in the home where Anne Frank lived in a self-made prison in fear of being murdered by Nazis! They clapped! The words of Anne Frank, which, again, are echoing throughout the home, are being read aloud as some sort of love potion for Gus to finally seal the deal. How did this happen?

 

DID GUS’ PARENTS LIKE GUS?

There’s a very funny scene in the beginning when Isaac’s girlfriend dumps him right before he’s having his one good eye removed. That’s an odd sentence but it’s true. I wish the entire movie could have hit this note, but it’s really only here in this one scene.

It’s great! It also encapsulates why Isaac, who is honest with his emotions, is so likable and Gus, who is over here working angles by repeating things about a book he saw on a message board in an attempt to get laid for 90 minutes of this movie, sucks so bad. But that’s not the point. Here’s my question: Do Gus’ parents like him?

There are multiple scenes in which Hazel’s parents rush to her because they think something is up. It could just be her calling out to them to read an e-mail, but since they don’t know, they run to her. It makes sense, right? When your child could need emergency medical treatment at any moment, you have to be on high alert at all times.

So where are Gus’ parents when Isaac is destroying stuff and screaming in the basement? They don’t even check to see what’s going on? Not even a call down into the basement? “Gus, everything OK?” Nope, nothing. And you know why? Because they knew Gus better than anyone and probably hated him more than everyone. “Let him freak out, who cares?”

 

SHAILENE WOODLEY IS THE FUTURE

WOODLEY

She can act. She was really good in The Descendants, too. You should watch that. When you watch her performance in The Fault In Our Stars, you truly appreciate how bored she looks in the Divergent movies, which are hideous. Maybe she’s like one of those athletes that is only happy when there’s a challenge, and Divergent is anything but that. She’s got Oscar potential.

Also, she plays the twin sister of Elgort’s character in those movies, so seeing these two bang in this movie is like seeing Luke and Leia bang less than a year after Return of the Jedi.

 

FINALLY, SOME STRAY THOUGHTS

•• In Amsterdam, Gus pulls that thing terrible guys do when they order for their date. Get lost, Gus.

•• Is being cool with dying a new contest among actors? This isn’t a young adult movie thing, either; this is happening a lot now. Whether it’s George Clooney drifting away in Gravity, Matt Damon basically acting like an adult version of Gus throughout The Martian or everyone in The Fault In Our Stars, this is now officially A Thing.

I get that in this movie, the idea is it’s bravery in the face of inevitable tragedy, but it’s so over the top. No thanks. What’s next? A new Saw movie where Ricky Gervais is being tortured and he says things like, “Oh, bugger, me innards are exposed! Ha! What’s wiff that? You havin’ a go, Saw? Are you havin’ a go?”

•• At the start of the movie, it’s weird how flippant they are with the support group leader, basically laughing that he lost his wife and had testicular cancer. I didn’t get that.

•• Hazel can’t smoke pot because of her lungs but why couldn’t her parents get her edibles?

•• There’s a character named Van Houten and a scene where Gus texts, “Everything’s coming up Waters!” Because of that, I paused the movie and watched this:

•• The flight attendant that tells Gus to take his stupid unlit cigarette out of his mouth before takeoff is the movie’s other hero.

•• Gus’ dickishness shows up casually too.

Hazel: “I’m so excited, I can barely breathe.”
Gus: “As opposed to normal?”

Hazel: “Maybe we should wait until dark.”
Gus: “It’s all dark to Isaac.”
Isaac: “I can hear when you make fun of my disability and I don’t love it.”

Good for you, Isaac. Eat a bag of dirty asses, Gus.

•• Finally, when Van Houten returns and gives Hazel the eulogy Gus wrote for Hazel, it basically goes, “I’m not a good writer but [the rest of the eulogy is absolutely perfect, as if it were written by a professional writer, not a guy that reads novelizations of video games].” I’m supposed to believe this was written by Gus?

Okay.