Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Hazel Lancaster, a precocious 16-year-old cancer patient, suffers from severely damaged lungs ever since her diagnosis three years prior. Concerned about her daughter’s propensity to languish around the house and obsessively re-read her favorite book, Hazel’s mom finds a cancer support group in hopes it will help with Hazel’s despondency. During one of these dreaded group meetings, Hazel stumbles across an audaciously charming cancer survivor, Augustus Waters, who, despite the loss of his right leg, still has a wit-filled zest for unconventional pleasures. Intrigued by his brazen attitude towards life, Hazel and Augustus begin spending more time together, sparking a star-crossed tale of love and discovery as these two refuse to allow their illnesses to define who they are.
Based on the young adult novel of the same name written by John Green, The Fault In Our Stars is the latest in a glut of films aimed at the 13-18-year-old age group with the hopes of fleecing their surplus of expendable cash. I, being a male in his thirties, was understandably hesitant about going to what was being labeled a teen tearjerker. However, my curiosity as a movie fan got the better of me and I managed to find a matinee showing where I was one of only three in attendance.
The film’s biggest attraction is Shailene Woodley, who has recently been thrust into role of young adult darling. Unlike many others, I have yet to drink the Kool-Aid when it comes to anointing her the next big star. Admittedly however, Woodley’s innocent, girl next door charm fits perfectly the slew of sweet, high school student roles she’s been gobbling up recently, making her this generation’s version of Molly Ringwald. The Fault In Our Stars is her most demanding role to date, as she is adeptly captures the frustrations of a vibrant, spirited young woman whose path in life is now being dictated by this unrelenting disease.
In only his third acting gig, 20-year-old Ansel Elgort has an undeniable charm that feels well beyond an actor of such minimal hands-on expertise. While Elgort’s inexperience seemed to surface at time during moments of distraught, overall, Ansel, with his boyish good looks and a cocksure smile that exudes an aura of understated bravado, truly owned his character Gus. Together, Woodley and Elgort create one of most heartfelt and sincere depictions of young love in recent memory.
With so many of us directly or indirectly effected, cancer is never an enjoyable topic. One of film’s true gifts was its graceful examination such a frightening subject matter without ever over-sensationalizing or sugarcoating. Josh Boone, in only his second directorial effort, does a capable job exploring topics that include the effects cancer has on the family and acceptance of the real possibility of death, all while adding just the right touch of humor to help break up some of the more heartrending moments. Boone also however, makes sure that the cancer storyline never overshadows the film’s true star, its earnest love story.
Some may feel film patronizes or indulges its impressionable intended audience, attempting to feel more thematically profound than what it really is. While this may be true to some point, overall, I still appreciate that The Fault In Our Stars asked its predominately younger audience to examine and experience real emotions about a subject matter that will most likely touch them in some way in the not so distant future. For better or worse, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort will be forever linked by the shared love and bond they so skillfully portrayed. That love, in all its sentimentality and melodrama, is still a genuine and sincere portrait that deserves to be praised and appreciated. Because after all, like many others out there, I am a hopeless romantic and a sucker for a good love story, and that’s exactly what The Fault In Our Stars is.-JL