'The Fault in Our Stars' Parents Are the Real Stars of the Weepy Blockbuster & Here's Why
At some point Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or maybe several times over the next few days and on into the month of June, then July, you will sit down to watch the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars. And you will weep. LORD, how you will weep. You'll just sit in those tears, marinating in feeling, until it's 20 minutes past the final credit and you realize that you've got to drive home. Or walk, because your vision might be too compromised to safely get behind the wheel.
In the hours following your successful return home, you'll still be too overcome with emotion to do much critical processing. But when you do, I hope you get to this thought: damn, The actors who played Hazel's parents really brought it.
As played by Laura Dern and Sam Trammell, Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster are exactly what you imagined reading the books: wry and authentic, exactly the parents you'd want to have if you were combatting a terminal illness (or just, you know, in general). They're not hip parents or asshole parents or some other gimmicky designation — they feel like real parents, maybe your parents, and it makes all the difference in this movie. Why?
- Hazel and Gus' love story is, let's be honest, mostly fantastical. Beautiful and heartbreaking in the best ways, with emotions that always feel real, but still somewhat unbelievable. Dern and Trammell anchor that story perfectly, counterbalancing the fantasy with performances that scream "I absolutely know these people." We want the crazy romance, we want the bigness of it all...but it only works when you've got these parents there to acknowledge it occasional absurdity. Something as simple as Mrs. Lancaster's questions at breakfast the morning after her daughter's romantic Amsterdam date will make you smile with recognition.
- ...Oh, and it's because of that realness that some of the most gut-punching moments of the film belong to the parents. I don't want to spoil anything for you, the FiOS virgin, but I'll say this: there's an exchange between Hazel and her mother late in the film that will leave you a sobbing mess. (This amidst basically an entire hour of same, but you'll know what I'm talking about.) It's not flashy or Meryl Streepy -- in fact it's just one line of dialogue, a simple utterance. But it's infinitely more impactful when you think holy shit -- this could be MY mom.
The Fault in Our Stars will rightfully make a billion dollars (or like $300 million, I'm not a box office prognosticator) on the backs of its immensely likable (and sincere) leads, a cool without being strident soundtrack, and a story that has captivated readers since it came out over two years ago. But let's not forget amidst our summer of FiOS mania the two characters without whom a lot of the film's magic wouldn't work. Here's to you, Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster!