The Tedium of Augustus Waters

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The latest obsession for simple minds is found in the form of this unimaginative and dull character from The Fault in our Stars. 

It’s coming to the end of the year now and so I am preparing my round up of the best films of this year, so it’s a real time for reflection and remembering what has been truly brilliant about this year. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the film many have labelled “the best film of the year” isn’t the best film of the year. Not even close. And this is of course the much unwanted big screen adaptation of John Green’s 313 page sleeping pill The Fault in our Stars. 

It wasn’t a good film, not even close to being a good film in any shape or form, but this was not helped by the fact that one of the main characters is ridiculously unengaging. Augustus Waters, the love interest of protagonist Hazel, has to be one of the most annoying characters I have ever had the misfortune to have been stuck with for over two hours of screen time. And it’s only now that I have found myself looking back over films from the past year, and now that I’m thinking about this film in particular I see just how many things are wrong with this character.

I genuinely have a list of things that I dislike about his character, and I was willing to document these and present them for others to see because it bothered me so much. Now I’m not going to waste my time by talking about the character from the novel, because to be honest the novel showed less depth and creative flare than the instructions manual for my new blu ray player. So I shall leave that version of the character left alone, as he should be, and focus on the idiot we see on screen.

So without any further delays I present to you the Tedium of Augustus Waters:

Calling a girl by her first and middle name – this isn’t funny or cute, it is just plain annoying. I don’t see how the girls in the cinema screening I attended found it so funny every time he calls Hazel “Hazel Grace” when this is clearly a cliched part of the picking up girls routine we have see so many times before.

Being scared of “oblivion” is so ambiguous and actually rather pretentious – it’s not clear as to what he actually means by this. Does he mean the game in the series of Elder Scrolls? Does he mean the cheesy science fiction flick starring Tom Cruise? The meaning behind this so ambiguous and yet we’re meant to see some form of depth to this character? He may as well have said his fear is “stuff”.

The cross between the flirtatious moron and the virgin does not work – it doesn’t really make sense to have a guy who is willing to openly flirt with a complete stranger, call her beautiful etcetera etcetera, and then suddenly reveal that actually he’s not had any success with women up until this point. It doesn’t make sense to set him up as a charming young man who can make any female swoon just by saying her first and middle name and suddenly juxtapose this with characteristics that are completely the opposite. It’s like having an F1 racer that can’t actually drive.

His reckless driving is not funny, considering the fact they both have cancer which is enough to be worried about, why run the risk with your health even more? – This was another thing that made people in the cinema screening laugh but made me feel furious. How would Hazel’s parents feel if she said that hew new boyfriend drives likes someone who bribed the examiner? Even if she did find it funny, any good parent would not let her in a car with him again. But for the sake of creating a sloppy teenage romance it’s just something we can shrug off. Ha bloody ha.

“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt” – This isn’t a deep line at all, it’s just stating the obvious. Generally, yes pain does demand to be felt because that’s how it functions. Pain is a message sent through your body to inform you that some form of damage has taken place in a specific area. Unless he’s talking about emotional pain which pretty much works in the same way. The reason we feel emotional pain is because whatever it is concerning meant something to us, it’s showing damage in an area that is important (e.g. family) much like physical pain highlights an area of our body is experiencing significant damage. Augustus can’t just say this to his friend and expect him to get over what has happened when we all know he would be an emotional wreck is Hazel were to suddenly ditch him and never speak to him again. This line means nothing. He is suggesting that pain is something that demands to be felt, which my implication means it can ignored, which is wrong.

We’re meant to feel sympathy for a person that blames their sexual hiatus on the fact he only has one leg – he doesn’t think maybe it’s something to with is attitude or his own personality that prevents him from engaging in coital activity? No! Let’s just assume that everyone is as shallow minded as he is and assume that everyone shares this rather ugly view that people with disabilities can’t possibly be loved. Yes, let’s assume that and laugh at the poor little virgin. Honestly if this character was a real person his personality alone would make him unlikeable.

It’s odd how he can go from mocking the “”always” “always”” thing and yet think it is perfectly acceptable to apply this to “okay” – the whole idea of this “okay” repetition is pure nonsense and is not romantic in the slightest, which is made even worse by the fact that they mock repetition between two lovers earlier in the film but then end up adhering to this annoying habit. Augustus’ complete change of heart makes his character even more unengaging for us as the audience and proceeds to change 30% of the remaining dialogue to that one word. Great.

As soon as they go to Amsterdam the film starts thinking it is Before Sunrise and by default Augustus is suddenly turned in to Jesse, which he isn’t – the film tries to do what was done so perfectly with all three of the Before films, which this film cannot possibly replicate because the screenplay is so badly written. The concept of two young lovers just talking can be a beautiful creation, but that relies heavily upon the hope that they actually have something to talk about. So with Before Sunrise you have two people who are getting to know each other and gradually falling in love just by talking, but with TFIOS you have one annoying guy talking nonsense, meshed together with modern hipster music. “Romantic” is not an adjective I would use to describe this section of the film, and neither is “acceptable”.

“yes, I definitely believe in something” – again, an ambiguous line that doesn’t actually mean anything to anyone. I know he’s talking about the afterlife but technically everyone believes in something in that respect. Some believe it’s nothingness, some believe we walk the earth as spirits, some believe we just stay in a hole in the ground or in a tin on the mantlepiece, all Augustus is doing here is not voicing his opinion because he doesn’t want Hazel to be disappointed with the outcome. Instead he takes to higher ground and plays it safe so he’s still in with a shot of getting laid. Smart move you slimey young man.

“would it be absolutely ludicrous if we just, made out now?” – yes, yes it would, so don’t bother. You have kept a secret from me that is hurting me right now and is something you only decided to tell me this after we had sex? I don’t really want to speak to you right now let alone kiss you.

His metaphor with the cigarette does not work, for a number of reasons:

1. Anything can kill you – honestly, does he do this with everything? It’s not just cigarettes that have the power to kill him. Other things have the power to kill him without him being able to take that power away from them. Like choking on food. Or hurricanes.

2. What he’s saying is rubbish because his cancer eventually kills him – He is using this metaphor to say that something can only kill you if you let it. He undermines his own argument with his inevitable demise.

3. He is trying to link the cigarette to his cancer, which is stupid because cancer is not a choice – again he going with the whole idea of something can’t kill you if you don’t let it, but he can’t possibly link that to a lot of things because they are out of his control. Smoking is in his control and he can do something about it. Cancer is not something you can control or prevent just by being strong willed.

4. He talks about giving the thing that can kill you the power to do so, but this doesn’t work for cancer. He is talking about power and yet he doesn’t possess power over his cancer – this is drawing on the previous points but really his metaphor doesn’t make sense because a lot of the causes of death are out of our control. Is he going to link this to old age or anything else he doesn’t have power over? It’s rather naive to undermine such a strong force as death and think it is in our control. This probably why he doesn’t like the abrupt mid sentence ending to An Imperial Affliction because it’s realistic. Cancer is a serious topic and yet he is approaching it in a juvenile fashion just to recite some philosophical nonsense he actually believes.

5. The whole point of this was to be open about his cancer and show that it doesn’t scare him, and yet he hides it from Hazel. This is the most counter productive move he could have made – this character needs to make up his mind as to whether he is afraid of death or not. At first he fears oblivion, then he’s fearless because he has his cigarette metaphor, then he’s a nervous wreck again because his cancer comes back. He is showing that actually he is scared of what will happen to him, so he may as well give up on this supposedly philosophical metaphor because it’s not a viewpoint he maintains enough for it to mean anything.

The whole mock up funeral is ridiculous – funerals are emotional enough as it and it’s not an experience to be taken lightly, so why would someone put the two people he closest to in the world through this despite the fact a) he is not dead and b) they will have to do this all over again. I know it’s meant to make him feel better in a dark time but he isn’t really taking their feelings in to consideration. I wouldn’t make the person I love read a eulogy to me before I died just because I wanted to hear certain things said alive. The whole point of a funeral is that things are said after someone has passed, it’s a harsh reality but one we must all face, so why Augustus suddenly get some kind of exception?

There you have it, something of a diatribe towards someone that doesn’t exist, but that’s the whole point of a character. They’re meant to convince us that they are real without actually being real, but in this case Augustus only managed to show me that if he was a real person a lot of things that happen to him in the film wouldn’t happen and it’s because of his own personality. There were more points I could have added to the list but that would have been taking it too far.

It’s not just because I’m a guy and I don’t like romantic films because honestly I love them. If a romantic film is written well then it impresses me greatly, much like Blue Jasmine did recently. This is neither well written nor romantic. It is what film critic Mark Kermode once described as “sentimentality porn” which I believe he used to describe a film that is equally as bad: Marley & Me. It is crucial to have characters you will sympathise with in a romantic film otherwise it is harder to connect with. And even if we’re not meant to connect with them at least make them a little more one sided like Oliver Tate in Submarine. 

So it’s safe to say this is not a good film, and it is far from the best film of the year as many have labelled it. I suggest that anyone who thought this was a good romantic film should watch other films and realise just how bad it is. Watch something like Moonrise Kingdom or About Time and then readdress the situation. And if at that point you still aren’t convinced I would recommend a strong dosage of Casablanca as the cure.

Now that is a good romantic film. 

 

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