The Fault In Our Stars Review

Posted: June 12, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

“Young Adult” seems to have become a dirty term in these current days of moviegoing, a generally eye-rolling phrase that has most dismissing whatever film it’s used to describe; that, and “hipster.” So it really shouldn’t have come as any real shock to me when the film community I’m a part of greeted the trailer for The Fault In Our Stars, the latest adaptation of a young adult romance yarn, with cynical declarations of “Just more hipster indie crap!” Above all else, though, I consider myself both an optimist and a sentimentalist — which I feel no shame or embarrassment about. I also feel neither of those things at having read and loved the John Green source novel and subsequently really liking the film. There’s never anything wrong with getting in touch with your inner sentimentality, in fact, it’s quite healthy, and The Fault In Our Stars — as cheesy as it sounds — is an unabashed celebration of making the most out of the most oppressive circumstances; i.e., of life. If that makes you want to vomit, well then, too bad.

Okay?

Okay.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a sixteen year-old with thyroid cancer who’s been living with her affliction since she was thirteen and has to tow around a portable oxygen tank with her everywhere she goes, with tubes running up her nostrils which help her breathe normally. Forced by her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) to attend a cancer support group, she one day meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an eighteen year-old cancer survivor who has a prosthetic leg to show for it, and who is always armed with some kind of witty or sarcastic comment, along with a pack of cigarettes. Augustus is the kind of guy who enjoys sticking a cigarette between his teeth but not lighting it, as a way of showing how one can control a killing instrument by not giving it its power. “It’s a metaphor,” he explains. It doesn’t take long for Hazel and Augustus to form a deep connection and indulge in a romance that has a ticking clock ticking away in the background. Or, in Hazel’s case, it’s a grenade. The two especially bond over Hazel’s favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, which prompts a trip to Amsterdam to visit the novel’s author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), but it only emphasizes the terrible truth people like Hazel and Augustus have to face eventually: that not everything ends as we would hope.

The fact that The Fault In Our Stars is aimed primarily at a teenage female audience doesn’t faze me from embracing it one bit, much in the same way that The Hunger Games was aimed at a young adult crowd and me still liking that, too. Or to use a closer comparison, how I ended up loving The Perks of Being a Wallflower two years ago. Why do I feel no shame? Well, it’s simple, really: The Fault In Our Stars is a legitimately good — very good — movie. As long as it’s that, then complaints about it being too “cheesy”, “hipster” and “pretentious” don’t matter. I’m sorry, but I’m just not going to let any preconceived notions about a certain genre affect my overall opinion of a movie, especially when one such as this deserves to have all its merits pointed out. A film like The Fault In Our Stars just further proves the idea that, today, it’s no longer a question of what a movie does, but how it does it.

If ever there was any doubt before now about whether or not Shailene Woodley deserves to be ranked alongside the other best emerging young actors, her excellent, heartwarming and heartbreaking turn as Hazel should erase said doubt. Make no mistake, this is both her and Ansel Elgort’s movie, but Woodley is really the emotional anchor here and as such, she keeps everything firmly rooted as well as captures the essence of Hazel that made the character so compelling in the novel in the first place. She’s trying her best not to drown in self-pity, to stay positive and wishes that those around her would treat her as normally as you can treat a cancer patient. Which makes Augustus that much more of a godsend when they meet. Hazel and Augustus’s relationship is obviously the heart and soul of The Fault In Our Stars, and the true godsend where the movie itself is concerned is that the filmmakers don’t mess that up. Whenever Woodley and Elgort share the screen, there’s so much heart and humor on display that it’s hard not to get involved. Just like Woodley, Ansel Elgort does a terrific job of embodying Augustus, and every moment of inflection in his line deliveries are pretty much exactly what I heard in my head when I was reading the book. Those of you who are more cynical-minded will see nothing more than the latest in a long line of “perfect guys” and roll your eyes, but those of you more comfortable with unfiltered romanticism will most likely be as taken with Augustus as Hazel is, and that’s really one of the essentials for a film like this. Around these two young actors, veterans like Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern provide solid supporting work. Dafoe especially, whom I didn’t even remotely picture as Peter van Houten when I read the book, is really quite good in his scenes.

Of course, the reason why Hazel and Augustus make for such compassionate leads traces back to the source material by author John Green. The characters as written in the novel are full of life and go against the normal “cancer personality” clichés, and thankfully, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber translate that to the screen very well. The real joy of this story comes not from seeing Hazel and Augustus wait for the inevitable, but instead make the time that they do have matter. It’s ultimately all about leaving a mark and being remembered, and even if it’s just by one person, that’s more than enough. Like I said, it’s sentimental, but it works. The Fault In Our Stars is also the kind of movie that will do its damnedest to make you cry, and while no tears were flowing from my own eyes, the film nonetheless does an effective job of creating palpable dramatic weight. Although, there were quite a bit of people sniffling around me towards the end.

The Fault In Our Stars is most assuredly one of the better young adult adaptations to come along in recent years. It may employ all the typical tricks of the trade, but it does so with genuine heart and the performances really are strong. So, if you’re open to this sort of thing, then by all means check it out. If not … well, keep on being heartless cynics.

***1/2 /****

Comments
  1. reel411 says:

    wow. that good, huh? I will have to rent this.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Michael. This one didn’t work well for me. I’m glad that it didn’t try to be all depressing and sad, but it was so annoyingly cloying after awhile, I wanted them to get somewhat serious at all.

  3. Good review. I also really enjoyed this one. It’s easy to dismiss it as “another teenage romance movie” but I thought it was just an all-around good movie. I have no shame–I did cry in the theater! ;)

  4. bhatiayash60 says:

    Great review. I’ll have to wait till 18th July to watch this at the multiplex.
    So glad to know that it is faithful to the book.

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