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The Fault in Our Stars – Movie Review

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The Fault in Our Stars – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

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The Fault in Our Stars has all of the makings of a film that could have entered mawkish movie-of-the-week territory, with its tale of two cancer-stricken teenagers in love. However, under the guidance of Josh Boone’s confident direction and the smart screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber, this is a touching and sweet little film with emotion that feels a hundred-percent earned and zero pretensions. At no point are we meant to feel pity for Hazel and Gus and as a result, their relationship feels genuine and when it reaches the expected emotional moments, the film succeeds. Adaptations of young adult literature are often easily dismissed, but it is a viable form of storytelling and The Fault in Our Stars makes an especially strong case for that sub-genre.

What is immediately captivating about Hazel and Gus is the dialogue they’re given. Even though they know they are close to death’s door and walking on egg shells, they remain in good spirits. Their quips and humourous little asides don’t come across as forced and a way to mask the disease infecting their bodies. These are intelligent teenagers who want to have the happiest time possible and it is that consistent positive outlook that makes them likeable protagonists. When the heavy dramatic moments happen, they are not jarring and show they do occasionally worry about their own health. The screenplay balances these scenes nicely and why these characters end up worth caring about. Equally as important in conveying the right nuances are the performances from the young thespians. Shailene Woodley is slowly becoming one of the most reliable young actresses working today. As Hazel, she is very charming and delivers the intelligent dialogue with a great level of confidence. Her chemistry with Ansel Elgort is fantastic with their back-and-forth being absolutely adorable. Their sweet, little romance does not go through the expected clichés of the genre and they are not written like typical movie lovebirds. Hazel and Gus have real emotions and despite having cancer, that’s not why they gain our sympathy. They gain our sympathy, because they are immensely likeable and we root for them to stay together.

Even though The Fault in Our Stars focuses on teenagers, the parents aren’t thrown aside. Hazel’s mother, played very nicely by Laura Dern, has her troubles and fears about her daughter and probably the most emotional scene in the film involves the two of them facing what might happen after she’s eventually gone. However, like Hazel, she keeps a mostly positive outlook and as such, we grow to care about her just as much as the two leads. Also lending nice support is Nat Wolff as Gus’s friend Isaac. Who seems at first to be merely the obnoxious best friend character, Isaac develops into a good likeable character with his own little interesting story-arc.

The mutual admiration for a book about a cancer patient leads Hazel and Gus to the Netherlands to visits its reclusive author and that manages to not become simply a travelogue, although it does show the beauty of the Dutch canals. Those scenes really help in developing their relationship and one major twist makes the rest of the film more than just a mere love story. Boone doesn’t make the story cheesy or resort to obvious melodramatic devices. So, when the first of a number of emotional scenes happen, it’s effective. Your mileage may vary on which scenes will cause slightly swelling eyes, but there are many to choose from and none of them hit a false note. The easily emotional might want to bring a box of napkins. There is only one scene that feels a tad unneeded and a little over-the-top, but it’s an easily ignorable thirty seconds of footage. The rest of the third act is played beautifully straight and hits that part of ourselves that has some semblance of a heart.

The romantic drama is the mostly likely genre to fall into melodramatic and corny pap, but The Fault in Our Stars does not come close to reaching that territory. It’s a sweet story of young love and never uses the fact that they have cancer to gain cheap sentiment. Any little sniffle or tear drop coming from either the character or the audience is completely earned and deserved. I have not read John Green’s best-selling book, but every indication seems to be given that the filmmakers and actors took great care to respect the touching little story he conceived. This is the kind of well-told romance that even the most hardened of male viewers will appreciate and admire, although it will almost certainly be many a teenage girl’s favourite movie and for very good reason.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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