I had the privilege of attending the Night Before Our Stars-a one night promotional event on June 5. The event included an early showing of the film (at 5:30pm instead of midnight), a poster, a bracelet, and a live q&a after the film.
It was really cool but also strange seeing the movie with so many other people who also loved the book because I found reading the book and watching the vlogbrothers videos such a individual activity. Seeing the magnitude of this film was overwhelming. I didn't realize so many people knew we (as in nerdfightaria and hank and john and the book) existed.
The theater drowned in tears but also floated with laughter and joy. The audience was extremely vocal by clapping and cheering in all of the right moments. It really was a communal experience more akin to seeing a play than being at the movies. Many people had okay, okay shirts on and brought there copies of the book with them. There were no car crashes, no explosions and yet everyone was enthralled by and connected to this very human story. Sitting in the theater I felt so much pride for John Green and his success. As a nerdfighter it's been an amazing privilege to watch his career from the inside and share this journey with him.
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The adaptation was beautiful and incredibly faithful to the book. I felt the same way watching the film as I did the first time reading the book. Although this is a cancer story, it's not about cancer, it's about life and finding joy in life, no matter what your predicament.
There was so much humor. One of my favorite scenes from the book that translated even better on screen was when Augustus was flirting with Hazel as Isaac smashed the trophies. It beautifully showed the ridiculousness of life and the dichotomy of new love beginning as an old love withers.
I was skeptical of Ansel Elgort as Augustus because he did not look as I imagined Augustus would look like but he did a great job. I believed him. I believed his confidence and charm and his vulnerability. I believed him when he said some of my favorite lines with so much charisma.
Shailene Woodley (played Hazel Grace) looked like a normal girl. She wore simple clothing, very little make up and her cannula was always visible. It was amazing to see a sick protagonist as a fully fleshed out human being who is important and deserving of love.
The sex scene was perfect. It was shot beautifully but not fuzzy. It was awkward but still full of humor and levity. Hazel's shirt gets wrapped around the tubes as she tries to take it off. Augustus clearly looks at Hazel's breasts and feels them. It's an expression of caring and not just a hook up.
The q&a began and ended with musical performances by Birdy and then Nat and Alex Wolff. I had no idea Nat could sing or who Birdy was but the music was beautiful. The performances were quiet and simple, just a musician and an instrument. The simplicity really matched the vibe of the film.
In the q&a one of my favorite answers was from Ansel. The question was did the cast feel more empathetic and understanding of what it's like to have cancer after having played these characters? Both Ansel and Shailene said no they didn't really because it's such a complex insurmountable thing to try and wrap your head around. But he did say the cancer informed some of the behaviors. He said Augustus' confidence at the beginning of the film came from defeating cancer.
Someone asked John if he struggled with killing off characters and his response was perfect. He said I don't kill people in books or in real life, especially real life which I pride myself on. People die in real life and in this book I dealt with reality. Everyone will die at some point.
The last question of the evening was “What do you hope people take away from the film?” Nat said, I hope people want to go tell those they love that they love them. That's how I felt walking out of the cinema. I wanted to run home and tell everyone I loved that I love them.