Well, the stars are indeed faulty in this terminal cancer themed drama, one hot on the heels of 2012’s ‘Now is Good’ and thematically almost identical, yet nowhere near as well done (this is based on the novel of the same name by John Green which was published in 2012, ‘Now is Good’ is based on the book ‘Before I Die’ by Jenny Downham which was published in 2007). I think there were no less than one million teenage girls bawling their eyes out through the final, massively drawn out over at least forty minutes, emotional act – all delivered in a maudlin and cheesy way on a pathos level with the Twilight saga. I don’t think I’ve witnessed such an event since ‘Titanic’ hit the big screen back in 1997, and The Red Dragon couldn’t quite suppress a smile of amusement at the spectacle.
It is painfully obvious how the entire film is going to play out from the opening five or ten minutes (and indeed the trailer), where we see terminal lung cancer patient Hazel (played very well by Shailene Woodley) enter a cancer support group for the first time where she will meet romantic interest and cancer survivor Gus (not played very well by Ansel Elgort), who’s ‘thing’ is that he likes to hang around with a fag loosely hanging out of his mouth. Hazel pulls him up on it, stating it’s a pretty disgusting thing to do given the scenario – then he explains he never lights it and it’s actually a metaphor, which was apparently the right thing to say to get her pants wet. YOU ARE STILL ADVERTISING CIGARETTES YOU INGRATE FUD, especially when we watch the fool showing it off in at least seven or eight scenes. Ridiculous.
Later on, during a life affirming trip to the Netherlands, things are not going so well for Hazel’s spirits courtesy of Willem Dafoe and so to cheer her up his rather comely secretary (Lotte Verbeek) decides to take them out for a while, to Anne Frank House. Because that’s the most uplifting place to visit in Amsterdam. Inside, they discover many, many flights of stairs (who knew? It’s not like she famously hid in the attic or anything. They also describe the bookcase there as being the actual one used to hide the entrance to the Achterhuis. It isn’t), presenting a fairly major problem for someone with lung cancer and a machine that she has to carry around with her everywhere, we then watch as she practically passes out and dies there and then on each flight, and yet those around her are fine to keep going to the very top. Once there, the lovers kiss and all the random tourists, who were not actually aware of the Edmund Hillary style effort to reach the summit, all give them a round of applause. I kind of doubt kissing is what tourists normally find themselves applauding when they visit Amsterdam.
Even her doctors, who raise objections to her trip, are hopelessly caricatured – shouting at her she’s JUST TOO SICK, rather than explaining anything to do with the physics of the flight and her condition. The character of Hazel is one of the few things that actually work in the film, mainly due to Woodley herself – her cohort not only suffers from the aforementioned character issues but Elgort also played Shailene Woodley’s brother in ‘Divergent‘ released only a couple of months ago, and certainly I don’t remember seeing him in anything before or after, thus creating a sense of THIS. FEELS. VERY. WRONG. Which further undermines the romance.
Ultimately, it’s a film designed to sell the double-hitter of idealised romance with its drawn out obliteration, combined with lots and lots of sad modern songs and music, to its intended audience, again conceptually similar to Titanic. Watch ‘Now is Good’ instead, it’s miles better.