THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Directed by Josh Boone
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Nat Wolff
Damn you, The Fault in Our Stars. I read the cultural phenomenon that is John Green's TFIOS late last year and knew exactly what I was getting into when I went to see the movie. But, still, I fell under its spell and found myself sniffing with every other person in the theater for, pretty much, the entire film. In the realm of teen romance films, The Fault in Our Stars ranks out of the solar system. It's more of an adult approach to honest life-or-death stories, while allowing itself to be brutally truthful without being sappy. It works on multiple levels, especially on the heartstrings level. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, male or female, and even a few people were having literal, out-loud meltdowns as the credits began to roll.
Shailene Woodley continues her growing reign as "the next big thing" by starring as Hazel, a teenage girl bent on finding the meaning of her insignificant life while dealing with cancer. Her struggle for normalcy in her own terms, despite what her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell in perfectly cast roles) think, quickly shows Hazel's view of life. It's a simplistic snowglobe of a world we live in and nothing anyone does will really ever change that. That is, until she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), or Gus, a debonair teenage boy with one leg (he lost part of his right leg, thanks to cancer) who lives each day as if it were the best day he's ever had. He throws out one-liners upon first meeting Hazel and instantly wins her heart. The two bond over clever conversations and a deepening connection with the book An Imperial Affliction. When the two begin corresponding with the book's author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), their love story deepens, despite the countless times they try to say they're just friends. A trip to Amsterdam and a fight for a life beyond what they already know takes the story even deeper. The gift of life is special enough. The gift of life with the people you undoubtedly love is priceless.
What really works here is the perfect casting. Green's book is very particular in regards to the emotional depths of both Hazel and Gus. Woodley and Elgort have incredible chemistry. Every girl wishes she had Hazel's personality: witty, shy, and bold (an oxymoron that Hazel would be proud of). Woodley perfectly encapsulates this through every glance of her eyes and subtle smile. Every guy wishes he had Gus's personality: vulnerability, innocence, and striking bravery. Elgort doesn't let anything slide in his quiet pursuit of the girl of his dreams.
As an adaptation, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber had a huge task to tackle. The book is a huge bestseller with plenty of fans. Eliminating certain parts of the book was risky, but they didn't let anything too important fall to the side. Instead, they enhanced Hazel and Gus's journey as two people with plenty to fight for and overcome. The script worked really well with the music, too. The soundtrack is on the verge of being a hipster's ultimate compilation, and I mean that as a good thing. As an emotional ride, The Fault in Our Stars needed the perfect mix of ingredients to work without being overly sappy or ungratefully full of cheese. Thankfully, director Josh Boone chose the more practical outlet, proving why both the movie and the book are both young adult romances to be celebrated. Hopefully more entertainment of this type is hyped up over those other young adult franchises and books (I'm looking at you Twilight). What could have been an overindulgent cancer film, The Fault in Our Stars is a film about two kids who happen to have cancer.
As a guy, I'm perfectly comfortable saying how great this movie is and how I haven't been able to quite shake it since seeing it. If you have a significant other, get in your car and take them to see it right now. You'll appreciate the advice later on.
Runtime: 125 minutes