Jan 15, 2015

Review: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Adapted from John Green's novel of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars is an absolute triumph when it comes to box office surprise stories. This is the movie that pushed Tom Cruise and Edge of Tomorrow to third place after Maleficent and a big part of that has to do with the film's marketing. With a successful trailer that connected with fans of the book, social media also played a big part in getting audiences (mostly young girls) to come see the film opening weekend. With only a $12 million budget, it was a massively profitable endeavor.

Shailene Woodley's career trajectory is just going to keep going up with successes like this and it's well-deserved if you ask me. She's a great talent who's successfully made the jump from TV to film. I didn't necessarily expect her career to explode as it has after I saw her alongside George Clooney in The Descendants, but the more I see her the more I can see why.

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Genre: drama, romance
Directed by: Josh Boone
Produced by: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Michele Imperato, etc.
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Music by: Mike Mogis, Nate Walcott
Running time: 126 minutes
Production company: Temple Hill Entertainment
Distributed by: Fox 2000 Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Big Picture 2 Films, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $12,000,000
Box office: $304,872,350 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek, Ana Dela Cruz, Randy Kovitz, Toni Saladna, David Whalen, Milica Govich

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Synopsis


Sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) has terminal thyroid cancer. Her mother (Laura Dern) believes that she's depressed, so she sends Hazel to a cancer support group. There she meets charming bone cancer survivor Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). From there, the two develop feelings for each other despite Hazel's situation.

Review


The Fault in Our Stars aims to be hard-hitting but also real and honest. In general, I would say that it's mission accomplished there, but it's not perfect. Cancer is an ugly, ugly thing and that's demonstrated here. There's a bit of glossing over from time to time, but I'm still pretty impressed at how the illness is portrayed and of how its characters behave in regards to it. 

You have all sorts of different responses someone can have in regards to cancer. You have Hazel's parents who try to stay cheery and positive for example which unsurprisingly aggravates Hazel to no end. It even addresses the question of how parents deal with a terminally ill child and that's an aspect I particularly like about TFiOS. Hazel herself as come to terms with her inevitable death, but like any young person she wants to experience love. 

Yeah OK, that's a little cheesy and yes there are some undeniable moments of cheesiness in The Fault in Our Stars. Josh Boone could've made this so much cheesier though and I'm glad that he managed to stay away from that. (Spoilers) The cheesiness mostly rears its head up during Hazel and Gus' trip to Amsterdam. Take the hotel dress-up scene or worst of all, the Anne Frank House kiss and applause scene. (End Spoilers) There was no way I could keep a straight face during the latter but still, I realize that it could've been way worse.

This is the type of story you know is going to be a tear-jerker and it's designed as much. Does TFiOS get the job done in that regard? Well, not always. I just couldn't escape this feeling that I was watching something almost scientifically researched to induce tears. Personally I never felt much more than a slight hint of a tear from time to time, but that's just me. I do think that what was being presented was quite sad and powerful though and I can certainly understand people bawling their eyes out over this film.

However, Shailene Woodley is an absolute wonder to watch in TFiOS. It's more than easy to buy her as a terminally ill cancer patient and she gives probably the best performance I've seen out of her yet. She gets her emotional scenes right and she also benefits from playing an interesting character.

Ansel Elgort on the other hand I'm not that enamored with and I don't think it's completely his fault. He plays a character who's supposed to be this free-roaming spirit who's there to open up Hazel to the world. You know what that sounds like right? He's like the stock manic pixie dream girl character but in male form which isn't very cool. Still, Elgort is charming and I'd give him high marks for his emotional scenes.

I can totally see why The Fault in Our Stars was as successful as it is. It doesn't completely get away from being cheesy or over-manufactured at times, but at its best it's an emotionally charged story that benefits from some nice performances, especially from Shailene Woodley. It's the kind of movie that I foresee becoming as remembered as Love Story is. I just really hope that John Green won't become the next Nicholas Sparks.

Rating


7/10