As promised last week, I’m going to do a comparison between the book version of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Let me start off by saying both versions are excellent. But you know how it goes, right? The book is always better.
But is it really better? Or just different?
The problem with movies based on novels is that movies are limited to two hours or less in most cases. Long movies mean bigger budgets and fewer showing times in the theatres, so producers shoot for that magic 90 to 120 minute length. In screenwriting world, that equates to about a minute per page. So screenwriters must take a 300 to 400 page novel and condense it to 120 pages max. See the problem?
I’d like for y’all (lived in Virginia for a while) to leave your own comments about the differences between the book and movie version of The Fault In Our Stars, but I’ll start with a couple of the most obvious.
Where was Kaitlyn?
In the book version, Hazel has a fading friendship with Kaitlyn, who she went to school with before leaving the public school system entirely. Kaitlyn does little in the book. Here, Green uses her as an indication of the life Hazel should have had in a non-cancer world. Kaitlyn’s biggest concerns are fashion and boys. Normal teen. Hazel’s normal concerns are waking up in the morning. Awesome contrast.
In the movie, however, Kaitlyn would have taken up vital film minutes. The producers and screenwriters no doubt thought the risk of her absence acceptable as the “normal” teens in the audience would simply compare Hazel’s life to their own, so no need for another character. I’ll agree with this choice. As much as I enjoyed Kaitlyn’s quirky personality in the book, she really wasn’t essential.
What do you think? Did you want Kaitlyn in the film?
The Swing Set Scene
One of my favorite scenes in the book was the one where Hazel is sitting in front of her old swing set, crying. She calls Gus and tells him this. He announces “I must see this swing set of tears!” and rushes over (an obvious excuse to see Hazel).
The scene does appear in the movie, but it almost appears as an afterthought. Green uses fantastic symbolism with the swing set in his book. The swing set symbolizes Hazel’s lost youth, a time when something as simple as a Sears some-assembly-required swing set brought her moments of great joy. Moments lost after her infliction with cancer at the age of thirteen. This was not a scene to be glossed over. I think the producers clearly missed the significance and rushed to the reunion between Hazel and Gus who, by the way, served as the replacement for the swing-set in bringing Hazel her dwindling moments of joy.
When the movie Gus hardly whispered “I must see this swing set of tears,” I wanted to scream. He should have shouted it, driven home the significance of the swing set.
By the way, the movie swing set disappears with no explanation. In the book, Gus and Hazel place an ad in Craigslist and sell it to a guy who “just wants his kids to stop playing video games and go outside.” Not a major impact on the plot, but when things go missing, we’d like to know why. In the book, the sale of the swing set represented Hazel cutting ties with the life she could never get back. Did Green do that on purpose? I think so. He’s pretty clever and doesn’t write words that don’t have significance.
There were many other differences between the book and movie versions. Which ones jumped out at you? Did it matter to the plot?