I saw The Fault in Our Stars last night. Call me a Romantic, call me a 14-year old girl, whatever. It was good. It was also the hardest I’ve laughed in a movie in a long time.
No, it’s not a comedy. It’s about two teenagers with terminal cancer–played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort–who fall in love. Real Notebook stuff.
So why the laughter? Let me explain.
I was coming straight from work so I grabbed Panda Express for dinner, fully expecting to cry into my orange chicken while I watched the movie. I ended up dominating that orange chicken (sans bacon) during the previews so I didn’t have to worry about choking it down while fighting back tears. Also, I was hungry.
With no Chinese cuisine to distract me from the inevitable emotions that these cancerous teens would inspire, I was ready to feel it. Little did I know that any emotions I experienced would pale in comparison to the wailing sobs of the teenage girls in the theater.
The sniffles started almost immediately. Before anything sad even happened. I get that they read the book (so did I) and they know what happens, but…calm down. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with the crying.
The constant watery-eyed sniffles were coupled with the “He’s so cute” comment that some girl behind me said literally every time Ansel Elgort was onscreen. It got to the point where I could anticipate when she was going to say it. Anytime he raised his eyebrows, smirked, had a quippy one-liner–anything remotely charming, and…”He’s so cute.”
I shit you not, she must have said it 20 times.
This “cuteness” laid the foundation for the theater-shaking sobs that would erupt later in the movie.
Spoiler alert: Augustus Waters (aka Ansel) dies. Whoops.
Don’t get me wrong. It was sad. I got choked up and teary-eyed, especially during the scene when Hazel (Shailene) delivers Augustus’ eulogy to him at a little pre-funeral he arranged. Beautiful scene and really impressive acting from both of them.
This is where shit went down though. The main culprits were two girls–one seated near the front of the theater and another over to the left. The sniffles became tears became weeping became melodramatic sobs that filled the theater. It was a little…
It quickly became a crying competition between the teary tweens. Who could cry the hardest (and loudest) for the charming, ever-so-cute, recently passed Augustus Waters?
We more-restrained folks went along with it for a while. And then it got to a point where the melodrama was just too much. All we could do was laugh at our bawling neighbors. And laugh we did.
The audience split into three contingents: The criers. The laughers. And the inbetweeners whose gasps for air were an ambiguous combination of sobbing and guffawing. It was like laughing in church. Or at a funeral (which was appropriate considering the scene). But it was that kind of side-splitting, irrepressible laughter that is intensified by the situation.
I tried all manner of tongue-biting, collar-chewing methods to suppress the laughter. I slumped in my seat. But the outbursts continued for a good five minutes. And I wasn’t alone in my laughing.
My gut reaction was to criticize the bawling fangirls. I’m sorry. Did you know the guy personally? Furthermore, you read the book. Did you not see this coming?
Thinking about it afterward though, I realized I’m not mad. I’m grateful. That was the hardest I’ve laughed and the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a while. It’s not up to me to say whatever emotions they were experiencing were wrong. Who am I to judge? I’m just a crotchety 20-something who smuggled orange chicken into the theater.
We need more of that kind of emotion. I was a theater major. We thrive on audience interaction and so much of that is being lost now that Netflix and streaming make it possible for everyone to watch movies huddled alone over their computers. The communal aspect of going to the theater is gradually disappearing, and that’s something we need as a society.
So laugh. Cry. Laugh at the people who are crying. Cry at the people who are laughing? Whatever. Just don’t be afraid to feel the emotions and dive into the story. Let’s go on this roller coaster ride together. It’s more fun that way.