Film Review – The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars
The young adult genre of books is varied in its subjects, but if you are strictly going off film adaptations, the majority of them involve dystopian societies, supernatural elements, and star-crossed lovers all with a teenage main character. Frankly, it is getting to be tiring since they all seem to be repeats of the ones that came before (*cough* Divergent *cough*). Enter The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, a young adult novel based in reality albeit a fictional one. While the novel has spoken loudly to the teenagers, the novel also has a large adult following. It is a story that we can all identify with and relate to in some way.
The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and her happenstance meeting Augustus “Gus” Waters (Ansel Elgort) at a cancer support group in “the literal heart of Jesus” aka a church. Hazel has cancer that is concentrated in her lungs. It is responding to a drug and keeping the cancer at a manageable level, but she has to constantly be on oxygen. Augustus is in remission from osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. Augustus is basically the cutest guy ever, and Hazel is immediately interested but reserved. Herein they develop a friendship with Augustus wanting more, but Hazel being too cautionary and protecting those around her from her eventual death. Things change in the course of this story in ways both Augustus and Hazel do not see coming.
Having finished the novel only two days before seeing the screening, the story was fresh in my mind. Let me assure all the TFIOS fans, this is a really good adaptation of the novel. When you read and internalize the characters and story of a beloved novel, the news of a film adaptation can bring up mixed feelings. You do not want the novel to be massacred or what you love about the novel to be thrown out the window. This does not happen in TFIOS. The characters, the humor, the love, and the moments that had you reaching for tissues as you read along are all intact. I can only attribute this to John Green’s involvement, the screenplay by Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, and director Josh Boone. With them as a backbone, the story is complete and what you love about the novel is there for you to see on the screen.
I can only fault (ha!) the film in a couple of elements. There are scenes where the lines and the actions of the characters are more complex and drawn out compared to the novel. The best example of this would be Gus Waters’ speech to Monica’s mom in the egg throwing scene. It is short and quite humorous in the novel, but it lost its potency on screen with an extended speech. I also take issue with how the film ended and how that certain something that Gus did played out, but that is spoiler heavy material.
While Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort did a remarkable job portraying Hazel and Gus, the supporting cast is really enjoyable and made the film better in such small ways. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell (True Blood) portray Hazel’s parents. Maybe it is because I am older or because I can see my parents in them, but I identified and empathized with them the most. There is a truly heartbreaking scene that deals with being a mother that was the tipping point for me in terms of tears rolling down my face. Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me) has a small, but humorous part as the cancer support group leader. His part is the initiation into realizing that this is not a wholly serious, dramatic film. You will laugh quite a lot. Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love) has the interesting part of playing Gus Waters’ best friend/half-blind/entirely blind Isaac. He is the third party and also a major source of comic relief in the film. Lotte Verbeek (The Borgias) and Willem Dafoe play the catalysts to Gus and Hazel’s climatic Amsterdam trip. I can see fans of the novel taking issue with the choice of Dafoe playing author Van Houten, but he is not the obvious choice and is surprising to see on screen since he is not used in any of the promotional material for the film.
The Fault in Our Stars is a crowd pleaser for fans of the novel. The gripes will be minor, and it will be one that fans will give repeat business to. To the adults and the parents of the fans, give it a shot. This is not a sappy love story, but one that is clever, humorous, if not ill-fated. Given the chance, the film will grip you and cause you to use those tissues I am warning you to bring. This is not your average teenage love story, but one with immense heart and purpose. Okay? Okay.
P.S. The soundtrack for TFIOS is amazing and have not heard one that fits so well into a film.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ItBvH5J6ss&w=560&h=315]