Who knew a teenage romance would be so refreshingly welcome during a summer that has brought moviegoers blockbusters like Godzilla, X-Men Days of Future Past and The Amazing Spiderman 2. The Josh Boone (Stuck In Love) directed The Fault in Our Stars, based on the John Green novel of the same name is a beautifully acted romantic teen drama that will become an instant classic for its already passionate fan base, as well as for the newly exposed like myself.
Fault follows Hazel Grace Lancaster, played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Spectacular Now) through her battle with terminal cancer, which now requires her to carry around an oxygen tank. Woodley narrates the story allowing the audience to get inside of Hazel’s head and hear her story. Hazel’s mother, played by a wonderful Laura Dern (Enlightened, Jurassic Park), is worried that she is depressed so she sends her to a cancer support group for teens.
The support group, which takes place “right in the heart of Jesus”, is where Hazel first meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort, Divergent). There is an instant attraction between the two and thus begins their epic love story.
Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, whom also wrote (500) Days of Summer and last year’s teen romance The Spectacular Now, which also starred Woodley, have proven once again that they are masters in romantic storytelling. What makes The Fault in Our Stars better than all of the Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that have been put out over the last decade is that the story is very much grounded in reality. Sure there are the sentimental declarations of love but with this film it seems so natural as opposed to this fantastical grand gesture. This is thanks to the screenwriting talent and their ability to tell a love story that feels raw, exciting and rarely crosses over into cheese ball territory.
However, the movie truly belongs to Woodley. Her performance is award worthy as she showcases Hazel’s every emotion with such a natural ease. She carries every scene that she is in and is only ever challenged when Lauren Dern enters a scene. Dern flawlessly plays a mother who is constantly on edge and in fear that her daughter could be gone at any given moment, also while trying to be optimistic and comforting. Dern showcases numerous emotions all with just one facial expression and it is magnificent.
Newcomer Ansel Elgort holds his own as Augustus, a confident teen who lost his right leg to cancer. Augustus is an inspiring character whose goal is to be remembered and live a fulfilling life no matter how long it may or may not last. There are only a few occasions where Elgort’s words come across as cheesy and over the top with his delivery but it never becomes a consistent issue. Elgort and Woodley’s chemistry is strong from beginning to end and imagining anyone else in his or her role is a difficult thought.
Yes, the film is at its core a teen romance but it also tackles the always-difficult subject of cancer and how people deal with it. What makes The Fault in Our Stars so good is that it doesn’t shy away from that subject and sugarcoat things. These teens have cancer and they deal with the struggles of that each and every day.
Cancer can be a very bleak subject for a film but this particular film tries to highlight how to lead a happy and fulfilling life when living with this terrible sickness and not just curling into a ball, even when we may want to.
The Fault in Our Stars is about learning to live with the hand we are dealt in life, even when that hand isn’t the greatest, and appreciating the experiences we have and the people we get to have them with. I dare anyone to sit through this film without cracking at least one smile and tearing up. It may use the occasional cheap trick to mess with our emotions but Fault is a moving and at times uplifting film that will join the likes of teen romance classics like Say Anything and Sixteen Candles.