The Fault In Our Stars (20th Century Fox)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language.
Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek, Ana Dela Cruz, Randy Kovitz, Toni Saldana, David Whalen, Milica Govich.
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based on the book by John Green.
Directed by Josh Boone.
Sometimes, a movie’s premise is enough to spur an emotional response before viewing it. Such is the case for The Fault In Our Stars, the story of a teenage couple dealing with cancer. There you go; built in tragedy.
Shailene Woodley stars as Hazel, a cynical, depressed cancer survivor whose lungs are failing. At the insistence of her mother Frannie (Laura Dern), Hazel attends a support group for teens dealing with cancer where she meets Agustus 'Gus' Waters (Ansel Elgort). Gus has apparently beaten the cancer that took his leg, and he has a more optimistic view of the world. The pair forms an immediate bond, staying in the “friend zone,” while sharing their thoughts on Hazel’s favorite novel (about cancer), authored by a man named Thomas Van Houten (Willem Dafoe).
Later, Gus arranges to cash in on his never-before used “wish” that is so often granted to kids with cancer (via the “genies,” i.e. Make-a-Wish), and plans to take Hazel to Amsterdam, where Van Houten, despite living in seclusion, offers to entertain the youngsters and answer questions about his only novel.
Hazel and Gus (accompanied by the Frannie) go to Amsterdam, have a romantic date, meet Van Houten (who is not very nice), and head back to Indiana, where one of them becomes much sicker (no spoilers).
As the couple deals with another life-threatening cancer, their romance is tested to the extreme.
TFIOS is not a bad movie, and delivers on its promise to squeeze every last tear from the entire young adult population (and some of the more sensitive older folks, too). I mean – how could it not? It’s a romantic drama about two very cute teens with cancer. While some of the more durable types may be able to brush it off as so much tripe, they really can’t help but get a little choked up, right? Right?
Those who really know me will attest that I’m quite the crier, but I barely got misty during TFIOS. My lack of tearful expression is not the fault of the film’s stars (pun intended), which includes very good performances from Woodley, Dern and especially Elgort (who proves dorks can be both charming and relevant). It’s that preconceived notion; this is a movie about teen cancer, so you’re supposed to cry. Telegraphing the movie’s tragic third act in the first 15 minutes didn’t help cue tears for me, either. Despite my apparent lack of humanity, I found the screenplay adapted from John Green’s book tender, funny and poignant, which should not disappoint fans of the novel, either.
So, TFIOS delivers the “good cry” to those who like to vent their emotions over so much teen drama. Even if you’re afraid letting your guard down, grab a tissue and man up. It’s okay to cry – or not. Okay? Okay.