A Look at ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ Overly Emotional Response

It’s no secret that the new Fault in Our Stars movie is an cry-fest of a film. The book-to-film adaptation, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, follows two teenagers as they navigate all the confusing feelings of first loves — oh, and they both have cancer. Thanks largely in part to a devoted fan base of mostly teenage girls, the $12 million budget film has already brought in $90 million at the box office and has seen mostly positive reviews.

And it’s also going to make you cry. A lot. You can’t help it; it seems so unfair that the kind, positive Gus is met with such a terrible fate. As the Tallahassee Democrat puts it, “Augustus is so sensitive, so quick-witted and so dang polite that he may as well have a bull’s eye painted on his forehead.” (Add to the fact that there’s not one, but two funeral scenes, and it’s ugly crying all around.)

That’s not to say there isn’t hope and a positivity found in this movie. There are plenty of cute, laugh-worthy moments, as Gus’ best friend Issac serves as most of the comedic relief. The film also has the ability to put life in perspective and that, if anything, is a hopeful takeaway from this film.

But why has the emotional response of this movie become such a phenomenon? It’s rare that a film gets talked about so much for causing such a responsiveness. “Tearjerker” films are usually cast down as cheap, melodramatic, and manipulative. As Carl Wilson at Slate points out, “Often ‘TFIOS’ reviews have titles along the lines of ‘A tearjerker that achieves genuine emotion,’ as if the two traits were inherently at odds.” When a movie like Fault brings that response out naturally, without a manipulative intent, should it still be considered a wrongdoing of the film? Comedic films that are nonstop laughter are praised for their ability to bring out such a strong response; films on the opposite end of the spectrum are rarely met with the same praise.

“At the movies we’ll allow a few brief tears, but only with embarrassment do we indulge in gulping sobs that we only permit ourselves in private. From where do we inherit our protocols and hierarchies of emotion, and how well are they serving us?”

It’s obviously not a question with an easy answer, as our “hierarchy of emotion” will most likely endure with most movie-going experiences. For now, it’s enough to say that The Fault in Our Stars looks to be a film that can tap into a deep, real emotional response without feeling cheap or manipulating.

Image via Belief Net