The Fault In Our Stars review

Review Patrick Sproull 7 Jun 2014 - 18:51

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort bring John Green's star-crossed lovers to life in this affecting adaptation

If there’s one thing The Fault In Our Stars gets so very right, is that it imitates the source material perfectly. The book – of the same name, written by the deeply profound John Green – is one of the biggest young adult novels (outside the sci-fi/dystopia bracket) of the last few years. It’s a thoughtful, introspective look at life through the eyes of a terminally ill girl: always funny, never mawkish and definitely worth checking out.

The book, however, is a nuanced piece and the lead teenagers are sensitive and meditative people; for example, the boy, Augustus (played with gusto by rubber-faced Ansel Elgort), constantly has an unlit cigarette drooping from his lips as a metaphor (“You put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth but you never give it the power to kill you”) and he supposedly fears oblivion. On screen it comes off as, perhaps, a little pretentious but director Josh Boone and (500) Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber keep with the original text strictly, never straying far from Green’s vision.

16 year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Divergent’s Shailene Woodley, diving into yet another big screen adaption of a YA novel) has been living with her sickness for a few years but then in the winter of one year her mother decides that she is depressed and packs her off to a support group that meets up in the local church. There, her path crosses with that of Augustus Waters, a charismatic, impulsive amputee. From the off it is clear Woodley and Elgort have compelling chemistry and their irresistible rapport is swiftly established with Augustus sweeping Hazel off her feet with his refreshing honesty. He’s a guy who speaks his mind; when questioned on why he is staring, almost creepily, at Hazel, he remarks, “you’re beautiful and I like looking at beautiful things.”

While The Fault In Our Stars gives our young lovers plenty of light and shade, their devoted families are put to the side to concentrate on Hazel and Augustus’ romance. Mr and Mrs Lancaster get more to do than the taciturn Waters parents (David Whalen and Milica Govich) and in the film’s third act the screenwriters finally bring the family pledged to assist Hazel into the limelight, showing how their lives are affected by her condition. Laura Dern has the real heft as Hazel’s scatty mother but like much of the cast excluding the lead two I came away wanting more from her. True Blood’s Sam Trammell – sporting a bristly beard similar to Austria’s Conchita Wurst’s – acts gamely as Mr Lancaster and in one fleeting scene he attempts to explain to Augustus the perils of the couple’s relationship but their conversation is interrupted and never touched on again.

Furthermore, Hazel and Augustus make little contact with other young people bar Isaac, an attendee of the cancer help group who is losing the sight in his one remaining eye, played by Nat Wolff. He too isn't given much special to do. Acting heavyweight Willem Dafoe has an excellent couple of scenes but he is despatched as quickly as he came.

I can’t complain that too much focus was given to lovers in a film unpleasantly billed as “one sick love story” but more could have been done with the people around Augustus and Hazel.

Once you push past the affected exterior (this includes lines that are destined for Tumblr: “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”) and let your ears adjust to the weighty badinage between Augustus and Hazel, there’s a surprisingly good story to be found. The Fault In Our Stars eschews trite and maudlin drama (though that’s not to say there aren’t a few slushy scenes) for raw and pensive drama. Readers of the book will be rewarded with a faithful adaption and the uninitiated will be treated with powerhouse performances by Woodley and Elgort – and a genuinely half-decent teen drama.

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The hell is this crap?

A review of a film.

It's hardly target audience for DOG though, is it?

It depends. I've read the book, and I really like it. I was interested to see what the film was like (probably won't see it though) - but I'm not going to lie, I wasn't expecting to see a review on DoG.

Either way, given how popular the book was, this film has potential to be really popular too.

I know this film/book has a large and obsessive fan base which you could class as being geeky, but I really don't see why this is on DOG, I couldn't care about this one bit.

In the defence of the editors, it was me who went to them and proposed a review. Also, I attended a fan screening not an official press screening so the only thing the editors did really was press publish.

I read the title and thought DoG was abandoning the star rating system, or coming up with something new. Boy, was I relieved that wasn't the case.

...then I was disappointed that I was made aware of this movie. I'm never happy I suppose.

Film Geeks can geek about about all types of film, not just sci-fi.

Why the hate for daring to review a romance? Nobody bothered to comment on the review of "comedy drama" Benny & Jolene saying it wasn't "allowed" even though (shocker) it's not sci-fi/action/horror.

I come to DOG for thoughtful news and reviews.
Am I interested in every piece of news, or every article? No.
But that doesn't mean I complain when someone else might care to read it.

I expect there is some Nerdfighter/DOG crossover

Notwithstanding the broad discretion the DOG editors have to publish whatever they want from modern popular culture, here's a postscript re the technical "geek quality" of TFiOS (and by extension, the vlog world)

This is an adaption of a book +1
The book sold so well thanks to a vlog +1
John Green's success enabled him to produce educational vlogs on science and literature and kids wanting to learn outside of school +1

I'm an English tutor, and I helped a 16 year old girl desperate to get a C in her GCSE English. She finds essay writing difficult, but is completely enthused by The Hunger Games, Divergent, and TFIOS.

The first two are sci-fi books, successful on their own, picked up by big studios. The third film is inspired by, and dependent on, vlogging and the modern internet.

Girls love YA. They love YA sci-fi. They love whatever the frick they want. They follow vlogs, they support the stories they like with their clicks and their views. This is, yes, a conventional, very popular teen romance. But its genesis is in geekdom. Female geekdom. Educational geekdom.

So no, DOG does not have to only publish what is "worthy", but if we take that road, this - clearly - is.

*** yes I have thought about this too much but hey

I've had this argument before. Apparently this site can review anything so long as someone is "geeky" about it. Of course Eastenders fans could consider themselves Eastenders geeks so where are the reviews for that?

Basically the writers can write about anything so every now and then you get reviews of films like this. It does seem a bit strange when there are more traditionally geeky things that don't get reviewed but when you get right down to it you can ignore articles like this one and enjoy the rest of the site.

Yeah I get that and I wouldn't bring this up if romantic dramas were often covered by DOG but they aren't so that's why I said it.

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