CINEMA RELEASE: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Release date: 5th June 2014
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe
Classification: M (Mature Themes and Coarse Language)
Review by Peter Gray
In any romance tale, regardless if it’s playing to comedy, something saccharine or downright tragic, the success of the story comes down to the chemistry of its leads, and if there’s one area ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ finds its feet, it’s here. Based on the best-selling novel from John Green, this teen aimed romance is quite the tearjerker, and unapologetically so, but its tale of two terminally ill cancer patients finding love with one another after meeting at a support group is made all the more uplifting thanks to its star-crossed lovers Ansel Elgort and, especially, Shailene Woodley.
Simply put Woodley is just so likeable, and it’s that relatable quality she radiates that makes her performance all the more affecting. Her character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, spends the entire movie hooked up to an oxygen tank due to the cancer distressing her breathing, and though she easily could play the role to evoke pity from the audience, she portrays Hazel without an ounce of despair. Carting the oxygen tank around with her at all times certainly adds a degree of fragility to the role as it appears she could slip away at any given moment, and her character reminds us throughout how she’s ready for the inevitable, but despite the movie itself having an air of predictability about it, Woodley and Elgort make it all the more intoxicating.
After suffering through the horrendous ‘Carrie’ remake last year, and turning in a small support role earlier this year in ‘Divergent’ (oddly enough playing Woodley’s characters brother), Elgort finally gets something meaty to sink his teeth into with his role as Gus, an ex-basketballer and amputee whose outlook on life is deliriously positive. The young star has charm to spare, and he manages to make his character’s rather hipster-like traits seem particularly tolerable; Gus likes to walk around with an unlit cigarette in his mouth as he explains that if he doesn’t light it, it doesn’t have the ability to kill him. It’s easy to reject his performance too as he is perhaps a bit too cocky for his own good but he acknowledges this himself in the film so overall it’s hard not to be impressed.
As the two of them fight their sickness you’ll be hard pressed not to at least be wiping a small tear from your eye, and though ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ so obviously attacks the emotional sensors, it’s effect can’t be denied as there’s very little in ways to make the story anything other than responsive. With a young adult mentality director Josh Boone has smartly kept the material above a more accessible PG rating with Hazel managing to drop a few choice curse words as well as showcasing the sexual relationship between the two of them; however tame it may be it still offers something most target audience members can relate to.
As great as Woodley and Elgort are, they are surrounded by an impressive line-up of upcoming and solidified talent with young Nat Wolfe particularly good as Isaac, a friend of Hazel and Gus’ who is coming to terms with losing his eyesight. His situation should be just as tragic but the film manages to raise joyous sequences out of his affliction which feels more true to life than presenting him as someone we pity. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell prove acceptable parents to Hazel (Dern receiving the larger role and playing the positive mother commendably) and Willem Dafoe adds a real weight to the middle section of the film devoted to a trip to Amsterdam which his cynical author has spurred on.
‘The Fault In Our Stars’ isn’t going to be a film everyone will rush out and see, and nor should they as it’s quite a tough sell and it’s not without its schmaltz, but if you can put your cynicism aside you might just enjoy yourself. As sad as it is, there’s so much heart and charm injected throughout that you’re unlikely to find a better date movie this season.