3. Willem Dafoe
Together with Woodley, Willem Dafoe gives the best performance of “TFIOS” as Peter van Houten, the mysterious author of Hazel’s favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction. To the characters Hazel and Gus, Van Houten might be the biggest disappointment of their short lives, but to the audience, Dafoe is magnificent.
The actor truly lives up to my expectations. Dafoe is known for playing the antagonist in films, ranging from full-on crazy villains like the Green Goblin in “Spiderman” to a cartoon-like bad guy in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. In “TFIOS”, Dafoe plays neither a full-on crazy villain nor a cartoon-like bad guy, but the most terrible antagonist of all: the antagonist you can emphasize with.
When Hazel and Gus travel to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten, he is a drunk old man, walking around in his pajamas, drinking scotch, shouting to his assistant and listening to Swedish hip-hop – obviously meant to be comedic and not to be taken seriously. But when we are nearly reaching the end of the film, Van Houten suddenly turns up in Hazel’s car and reveals why he was such a disappointment to her. In that moment, Dafoe turns from a laughter into a broken old man, with actual motives for his actions and it is truly moving.