Movie Review: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

by

TFIOS06

Witty, tragic, and poignant: John Greens bestselling novel translates brilliantly to the big screen

Based on his experiences in a children’s hospital and friendship with cancer patient Esther Earl, John Green wrote The Fault in Our Stars over the course of many years. The novel quickly skyrocketed into the bestseller lists, and movie rights soon followed. Josh Boone directed the film, working with a screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. It stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster, Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters, Nat Wolff as Isaac, Laura Dern as Frannie Lancaster, Sam Trammell as Michael Lancaster, and William Dafoe as Peter Van Houten.

The Fault In Our Stars (TFiOS) is the story of Hazel and Augustus, two cancer survivors. They find understanding and comfort in the other, slowly falling in love. Each deal with their own set of fears that comes with the curse of cancer: what they want to do with their lives, what they will be remembered for, and what impact their death will have on the people around them. From questions about life, the joy of first love, and the struggle to find beauty in a cruel world, The Fault in Our Stars is sure to become a classic.

Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber. It stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster, Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters, Nat Wolff as Isaac, Laura Dern as Frannie Lancaster, Sam Trammell as Michael Lancaster, and William Dafoe as Peter Van Houten.

TFIOS01

The risk of young actors

One of this films key elements was the ability of young lead actors Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Though many were worried about the actors abilities, the two were able to portray all the nuances of the character’s journies beautifully. They’re both

so believable, both as teenagers, and humans battling cancer and all that comes with it. Far more than a believable teenager, Hazel was a complex character, played with all of the nuance fans could have hoped for, and snarky without being over-clever. Hazels reluctance to be a grenade is well played. You can see it in her face as she begs Van Houten to tell her what happened to the family Anna left behind. You see it when she tries to push her parents away and get them to let her go. You see what it’s like to be a kid with cancer, deprived of a normal life but joyful to find Gus. You see it in her face, the moment where she decides that she’ll be a grenade and love him, the pain of losing him, and learning the value of loving anyway.

Ansel Elgort had an equally difficult role. It’s sometimes hard to see from her description in the bok, but Gus is deperate. Desperate to be maningful, desperate to be remembered, desperate to be this clever thoughtful confident personality that cancer takes away from him. Though lovable, he’s incredibly pretentious, as a defense mechanism of sorts. Elgort strikes this balance beautifully. We see who he wants Hazel to see, right up until the plane where his fear is too much to fake. From then on, his filters fade more and more, and Elgort does a wonderful job. His profession of love was raw and unplanned. Even with no dialouge to give it away, we can see his fear of the death he knows is coming for him, little expressions and hesitations at key moments heartbreaking for the readers in the audience. But by far the best scen of Elgort’s was in the gas station. Everything Gus had everything he wanted has been taken away. The progression from confident and charming to fearful and desperate is heartbreaking, and we couldn’t have asked for a better Gus.

TFIOS02

Page to screen

As an adaptation, the script did very well in choosing what book elements to focus on and what to leave behind. It could have easily relyed on iconic book quotes and scenes to get fans excited and left it at that. But it didn’t. The writers really knew how to make the movie its own while still bringing the best from the book, letting go of certain elements in favor of Hazel and Augustus’ journey as the heart of the story. From Amsterdam on, the pacing works beautifully, the plot crafted so well to make the movie its own entity, its own version of the story separate from the book.

Though many of the pieces left out of the script were unecessary for the story to work, there were a few things that might have made it better. The book scene where Augustus scrifices himself to save children displays his obsession with heroism, his willingness to die as long as he was remembered. Though this was present as a theme in the film, it was not so much shown as described. Isaac’s voice-controlled game was left out as well. In the book scene, Isaac and Hazel spend time together after Gus dies, playing the game and discussing what life is like without him. This would have fit well as context for their scene together in the movie, fleshed out his (somewhat sidelined) character, and shown Isaac and Hazel’s relationship outside of Augustus.

TFIOS03

I fell in love the way you fall asleep

From Hazel’s visit to the Waters home through the plane ride to Amsterdam, the development of Hazel and Gus didn’t seem quites right. It missed the closeness and amped up the flirtatiousness. Instead of seeing them just enjoying time and conversation with one another it’s a series of “are they going to kiss” style moments that really take away from their relationship. The picnic scene is one of the strangest. It’s supposed to be weird, forced, and too suddenly romantic to be natural. In the movie, it just flows right along with their other interactions, missing a key element from their story.

But once they get to Amsterdam, their chemistry and interactions are just as they should be; it’s almost like they have a completely different history than the one we just saw. But it’s so beautiful that I can forgive the rough beginning. They’re both a joy to watch together, happy, shy or enamored at all the right moments, a perfect reminder of the feeling of first love. It’s a totally believable relationship, their interactions all just as pure and organic as the source material.

TFIOS04

A side effect of dying

This is something nobody watching could (or should ever) forget. This is not a movie about two teenagers. It’s a movie about two teenagers with cancer. That was never left out. These two kids have been cursed with something truly terrible, and this movie does not take it lightly. We see the struggles, the things no teenager should have to asks themselves. We see doctors visits and cancer groups and close scrapes with death in the middle of the night. Hazel struggles with her cannula the entire film. She pulls her oxygen cart everywhere, sitting down to catch her breath, nearly unable to climb stairs. Cancer hangs over their heads, the magical moment where her dreams are within reach is nearly taken away because she can’t travel. Even in their most intimate moments, Augustus feels has to warn Hazel about his missing leg. Isaac loses eyes, his girlfriend and his best friend because of cancer. It’s not a just plot device or tearjerker, it’s very very real because that’s what cancer is. But at the same time it brings across what Green did in the book, that cancer patients are not some strange heroic “other” but living breathing real people, with feelings and families and crushes who can have a full and human life just as well as anybody else.TFIOS05

Worth the watch?

This movie is witty, poignant, and heart-wretchingly wonderful. It’s a heartbreaking story that leaves you feeling whole. It is a brilliant ride that doesn’t hold anything back; it asks the hard questions and doesn’t let you get by with easy answers. This story has been in the world in book form for over two years, and this movie lifted it even greater hights. It’ll be a classic, it’ll make you feel strongly and unashamedly. It won’t grab you are hook you or lead you, but you’ll follow it anyway, because it’s a story that’s too beautiful to miss.