Enough with heart-tugging films about quirky, terminally-ill teens

Enough with heart-tugging films about quirky, terminally-ill teens

February 1, 2019

“What if she only likes you for your cancer?” Maisie Williams asks in “Then Came You,” the latest in the terminal-illness-romance genre (rom-term?). “People really get off on that s - - t.”

Indeed they do! Hollywood’s cancer-tear-jerker industrial complex has been going strong for many years, reducing the terminally ill to mythical figures who exist only to impart important lessons about life before shuffling off this mortal coil. This trope is especially aimed at teens, because it’s super-extra-tragic to kick it before you’ve had a chance for life to kick you around a bit.

Case in point: This week’s release, in which Williams (“Game of Thrones”) plays final-stage cancer patient Skye, who has an impossibly large collection of wigs (seriously, have you been to New York’s Wigs & Plus? The good ones are pricey!) and a joie de vivre that belies her condition. She meets-cute with Asa Butterfield’s Calvin, a college dropout who’s afraid of everything, including his own moles, despite being perfectly healthy.

Will Skye coax him into a series of quirky life-affirming scenarios before nobly succumbing to hospice? I would never spoil that for you.

Sometimes, the tear-jerking is earned: I attended an early New York screening of “The Fault in Our Stars,” the 2014 adaptation of John Green’s best seller about

Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort), a comely couple who meet in a cancer support group. Oh, the wailing from the mostly teen-girl audience! It was hard to hear Augustus’ climactic speech — “I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed. And that one day all our labor will be returned to dust. And I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have. And I am in love with you”— over all the sniffling.

“The Fault in Our Stars” is the rare movie that manages to pull off the melodrama without embarrassing itself, even if Elgort’s Gus is a tad too hale, hearty and profound to be truly believable.

As for the rest . . . yeesh.

They range from the passable (“A Walk to Remember,” in which Mandy Moore rocks some depressing cardigans) to the deeply eye-rolling (Kate Hudson in the unfortunately titled “A Little Bit of Heaven”). Enough with the manic pixie death girl; it’s time for something new.

Here’s a thought, film industry: Make a movie about someone like me, a misanthropic hypochondriac AND a cancer patient (albeit not of the imminently terminal variety). It’s a hilarious and wacky combo! Judd Apatow, I’ll be waiting for your call.

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