Every once in a while there comes a movie that is simply very well done. It’s not always an Oscar contender or will one day make the AFI best movies of all time list. But, I can honestly say that “The Fault in Our Stars” is a great example of a movie that exceeds genre expectations on all levels. However, not having read the book, I cannot speak to its accuracy. And, for the purposes of this review, I did not want to read up on the book. That way, I can evaluate the movie as a movie. This movie makes an excellent addition to the long-running cannon of doomed star-crossed lovers. From Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” to James Cameron’s “Titanic,” and now another best-selling novel comes to the cinema.
Natural beauty Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace, a young lady who is afflicted with cancer that affects her ability to breath. In order for her mother, played by Jurassic Park’s Laura Dern, to help her daughter not fall into depression–meanwhile Hazel denies being depressed–she takes her to a cancer support group held in a local church. It is there that she meets Augustus (Gus) Waters, played by the heartthrob Ansel Elgort. At first turned off by his cavalier optimism, Hazel begins to fall for his genuine charm and beautiful smile (as does the audience), and their similar attitudes for the disdain of societal convention. Their love story is one that sweeps them off their feet and even tests their ability to love amidst the pain of dealing with cancer. Despite the fact Hazel tries to distance herself from Gus, after he proclaimed his love for her, and attempts to logically reason why they should not be together, Gus still remains by her side. Even when Hazel’s mom refers to the two of them as a couple, Hazel responds “we’re just friends” followed by the quick reply from Gus “she is; I’m not.” Their journey of love will go through many peaks and valleys. It’s difficult to discuss a full summary of the plot without going into some detail that is best left for the movie to reveal.
The characters in “The Fault in Our Stars” were cast brilliantly. If only other movies matched actors with characters as well as this one. Director Josh Boone did an excellent job at crafting this story for the screen. And, his attention to the little things really shows through. Still a newcomer, he he proven himself to be competent and a director that Hollywood should continue to use, especially in romantic dramas. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” cinematographer Ben Richardson shines brilliantly as he truly exhibits excellence in using the lens to visually tell the story through the eyes of the director. As I am not sure how close the screenplay is to the novel, I cannot speak to the accuracy, but the screenplay was written very well and it’s not often that movies have a perfect balance of character development, structure, and pace. Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael J Weber did just that. From start to finish, this movie will have you undoubtedly laughing and crying.
A word of auction to parents of young people that are flocking to see the movie. There is a “G-D” and an “F-bomb” in the movie. And, there is an intimate scene between Gus and Hazel (however, no full nudity can be seen). You may also want to pick a time to attend the cinema at which most young people are in school because you will want to enjoy the movie without the giggles, raging hormones, tears, and comments from the young female audience members–it was very distracting to concentrate on the artistic and technical elements of the movie with the peanut gallery behind me. “The Fault in Our Stars” could easily be this year’s “Perks of Being a Wall Flower” or this generation’s “The Notebook.” If you are looking for a great movie for date night, no matter your age, then this is a solid one to choose.
Ordinarily, I find that I can usually find the areas of improvement in a movie fairly easily. However, this time around, it was much more difficult because the movie was, all around, produced very well. Thankfully, I screened the movie with my fellow filmmaker and friend Director Raul Navedo, and we were able to discuss where the movie could have improved. But, for this, I have to get into some spoilers, so this is your SPOILER WARNING.
There appears to be a real ethical dilemma in one of the scenes toward the end of the second act and prior to the third act. Gus and Hazel have retired to Gus’ hotel room following their truly dynamic day in Amsterdam. As one may expect, just like a scene taken from a Nicholas Sparks novel turned movie, the two of them make passionate love to each other (due to the PG-13 rating and the fact this is a novel for teens and young adults, there is no full nudity). That is not the problem. Where the ethical dilemma comes into play is because earlier in the movie, Gus tells Hazel that the only way we get hurt by other people is by allowing them to hurt us. Furthermore, the following morning after Gus and Hazel lose their virginity to each other, Gus tells Hazel that his cancer is ravaging his body and has been like that for some time, and he has a very short time to live. Gus is clinging to his grand romance delusions, but he is basically lying to Hazel. So, in essence, he just hurt Hazel because she was under the impression that they would be together for a long time, if not forever. Should they have had sex since he knew that he would most likely not be around much longer and should have allowed Hazel to lose her virginity to someone who could have been her life-long love? On one hand, it’s very romantic–like the type of story we would all like to tell. But on the other hand, he was kind of deceptive and risked hurting Hazel. Perhaps it’s up to the reader or audience member to decide if the scene is truly romantic or deceptive.