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Normally, when getting ready to run to a press screening, I have a simple check list: wallet, cell phone, keys, a notebook, and two pens in case one runs out of ink. Last Thursday, I also made sure to pack tissues. I was headed to The Fault In Our Stars. And I was ready.
Though I haven't yet read John Green's beloved book about cancer-stricken teens falling in love, I knew this is the stuff of epic tearjerkers. I would cry, probably a lot, likely throughout. And to make the most of that, I invited a close friend along to join me. In general, I can't say I'd recommend crying in public. But there's something deeply satisfying about sharing a cry with a friend over a movie.
I can remember my first. It was 1991. I had just turned 9. The movie was My Girl. I had no idea what was in store for plucky Vada Sultenfuss and her best buddy Thomas J. But Amanda did. My third grade classmate had tissues at the ready, and when those bees came for Thomas J. and his glasses (WHERE ARE HIS GLASSES!?), the two of us melted into a crumpled pile of tissues and tears, clinging to each other's snot-smeared hands for support. It's one of my most vivid memories of seeing a movie I have from my childhood. I suspect women especially understand the cleansing value of a "good cry," but there's something intoxicating about having it with a friend.
I was caught off guard more recently, seeing About Time at the New York Film Festival, believing it to be a chipper romantic comedy with a dash of zany time travel. Then came the plotline of mortality and heartbreaking choices. This time, I had the tissues by chance. But passing them to the sobbing friend at my side was tantamount to saying, "I'm right there with you, girl." Over drinks afterwards, we rehashed what had made us lose it, and our shared sadness turned to long, rich conversations about our families, work, and personal philosophies. A shared sad movie spun into bonding and a fantastic and fun night out.
With these experiences behind me, I considered who I might want to bring to The Fault In Our Stars. Basically, who did I want to share a good cry with? I called up Stevie Steel, an actress who I've enjoyed countless conversations and laughs with over scads of cocktails and dinners. We talked briefly about the movie beforehand, admitting neither of us had read the book, but we were both aware of the plot. The movie began, and it wasn't long before--as predicted--we were both sniffling. I handed Stevie a tissue and we exchanged a glance of understanding as she took it. Together, we sobbed and shook as Hazel and Gus battled cancer, fighting for their life together.
Seeing a movie with a friend is usually fun, but it can often be a passive pastime of staring blankly, sitting in silence. Tearjerkers force you out of your silent watchful space, and make you interact. For us, it was with tears and tissues. It made us feel connected, not embarrassed--the feeling most-often associated with crying in public. We were sharing in the experience in the way the movie demanded, and it's powerful stuff. Even as we left the theater, eyes still sparkling wet, eyelids slightly puffy, it felt like a merit badge we'd earned together.
But this article would be incomplete without Stevie's point of view. So I asked her what she thought about the value of crying in a theater with a friend. She explained via email:
"If you're seeing an emotional movie, you will cry. And if you're seeing it with a friend, there is a 50 percent greater chance there will be tissues.
So we advise you embrace that magic.
Yes, The Fault In Our Stars will make you cry. But revel in that. Bring a friend. And don't forget the tissues.