Oh no, here we go again. Another depressing, cheesy and predictable cancer story from Hollywood. Not so fast. Author John Green’s 2012 young-adult bestseller book about a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, both with cancer, isn’t so bad after all. It turns out that The Fault in Our Stars is just as good on the big screen as it is on the page. Green made a wise choice by adding in humor to his sad love story, and director Josh Boone (Stuck in Love) takes this to heart by filming it exactly how the book was written. Scriptwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now and (500) Days of Summer) know how to tug at your heartstrings little by little until you’re a wet mess by the end of the film. Neustadter and Weber keep the film meaningful and touching without being cheesy.
The film also thrives from its top two stars, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Most recently known as the Prior siblings in last spring’s Divergent, they are much better as lovers here. Woodley, 22, has already proven her expertise in 2011’s The Descendants and 2013’s The Spectacular Now. Woodley’s performance is even more heartbreaking here as she plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old whose thyroid cancer forces her to wear a tube in her nose and haul around an oxygen tank. Hazel is forced by her mother (Laura Dern) to go to a cancer patients’ support group at a local church, which makes her quiver by the sound of it. This over-the-top Jesus-happy group makes Hazel more nauseous than her chemo.
That is, until she meets Augustus Waters (Elgort). Newcomer Elgort is wonderful as the charming young man who is in remission from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, which caused him to lose one of his legs from the knee down. Augustus, also known as Gus, is in the group to support one of his buddies, Isaac (Nat Wolff), who has lost one of his eyes due to cancer. Gus befriends Hazel and shows her how to live life to its fullest without cancer getting in the way. One of Gus’ most interesting habits is bringing a cigarette to his mouth but never lighting it. If he doesn’t light it, then the nicotine won’t go into his lungs; therefore, he’s essentially cheating death. Hazel shares with Gus her obsession over author Peter Van Houten’s An Imperial Affliction. Van Houten ended this novel in mid-sentence, which frustrated Hazel. Hazel soon discovered that van Houten lives in Amsterdam and is consumed with meeting him.
Wanting to help Hazel, Gus uses his magic to get Hazel and himself to meet Van Houten. That’s when the real adventure begins for these two. Yes, The Fault in Our Stars still has its faults but Woodley and Elgort’s chemistry grows so strongly throughout the film that you overlook the mush. Boone also uses his sharp direction to help give the film more life. He takes such gentle care in telling this sad love story that in the end The Fault in Our Stars takes a piece out of you. Prejudging is hard but don’t let that distract you because this film reminds you how important your loved ones are.
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