Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars”

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Shailene Woodley, who can do no acting wrong, brings a welcome reality to “The Fault in Our Stars,” a perfectly serviceable teen date picture that teenage girls will have to bribe teenage boys to sit through.
Sweet, cute to the point of cutesy, it’s a weeper about doomed teenagers who meet in a cancer patients support group, and dare to fall in love.
Adults can be forgiven for rolling their eyes at any movie about cancer whose narrator mocks the conventions and cliches of the genre and then declares, “This is the truth.” Because what follows is almost always those very cliches she was ridiculing.
Hazel (Woodley, of “Divergent”) is 17, and totes an oxygen tank around with her, a byproduct of the experimental drug that keeps her cancer at bay but fills her lungs with fluid, from time to time.
Hazel is leery of the new guy at this Jesus-centric support group her ever-smiling/ever-positive mom (Laura Dern) makes her attend. Augustus (Ansel Elgort, Woodley’s “Divergent” brother) gives her the playboy’s smile and the playboy’s stare. He charms her and the group with his bubbling personality.
“I’m on a roller-coaster that only goes up!”
Hazel isn’t buying it, but is won over by his wit, his bad driving, his habit of calling her by her first and middle name.
“Hazel Grace!”
Thus begins a chaste but adorably sweet romance between two people who have that ONE THING in common, and are just old enough to know better than to let this happen. But they can’t spend all of their energy worrying about their parents’ worrying about them, trying to be brave for the grownups’ sake.
One cliche of such movies is how healthy the sickly look — up until that moment that we know is coming, when they do actually look sick. Another familiar touch, Hazel forcing her favorite book on her new beau, and them communicating with the author (Willem Dafoe) who turns out to be the way authors in such scenarios always are.
The cancer jokes keep it light — “I love it when you talk ‘medical’ to me.”
And the stars hit it off well enough. Woodley, dazzling in “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now,” is merely a convincing lure for Elgort, who lifts his game to hang with her, though not quite enough to make the literary locutions of Gus come out sounding natural. Dern took the role for one or two good scenes and the rest of the supporting makes little impression.
But this long Josh Boone (“Stuck in Love”) film based on a John Green novel isn’t meant to be a movie for people who remember when TV had “disease of the week” weepers. It’s for teenage girls, and the boys they can wrangle into coming to see it with them.
Maybe they’ll find the stunningly obvious plot to be surprising and fresh, maybe they’ll take stock of their young lives the same way the characters do, without the sword of cancer hanging over their heads.
And they’ll learn the cliches, even as a nice, metaphoric lecture about cigarettes is tucked in between the dates, the animated text messages, the wish fulfillment fantasy and the tragedy that may be the only “true” thing “The Fault in Our Stars” actually manages.
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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Credits: Directed by Josh Boone , written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based the John Green novel. A Fox Searchlight release.
Running time: 2:05

 

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8 Responses to Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars”

  1. Alif says:

    She is 16! NOT 17! A critic like you should know better. For Shame.

  2. LennietheCrabApple says:

    Mr. Moore, would you say the picture’s quality in terms of direction is reminiscent of a made-for-television movie? You make somewhat of a jab at that towards the end of your review, but I was wondering if that truly was the case. Josh Boone’s “Stuck in Love” proved his direction rather incompetent as it lacked any sort of intriguing flare or interesting inspiration making me wonder if perhaps a better director could have elevated the script. Evidently, he uses the single camera set-up, yet neither he nor his cinematographer seem to do anything remotely unique with it (other than to provide more work for the film’s editors). This begs me to ask to why even bothered adopting that set-up in the first place. In “The Fault In Our Stars”, do you feel this sort of approach remains unchanged or can you think of any shots and/or scenes that popped visually or benefited the narrative in some shape or form?

    • I interviewed Boone when he and his star barnstormed Florida with the (yes, inept) “Stuck in Love.” We talked about his casting Shailene, whom I have been calling the best actress of her generation (Yeah, I’m talking to you, J-Law) for years. That he could not cast her and Elgort (he pretty much holds his own) and make a better film suggests not only his shortcomings, but the flimsiness of the material. People –fans of the book, anyway — don’t want to hear it, thanks to the film’s cancer-as-subject-seriousness. But scene after scene transcribed from the book directly to the screen comes off as — trite. Woodley makes the Anne Frank visit moment work. Kind of. But people “slow clap” applauding sickly teenagers making out in the Attic? Skin-crawl. Willem Dafoe’s character is a literary cliche, thank you very much, John Green. And I had pre-rolled my eyes at when I KNEW that dude was going to make a second entrance. That way, when he did, as CONVENTION dictates, I didn’t have to roll my eyes at that juvenile cliche. It’s passable YA fiction, which means they get a pass for covering ground that’s been covered 457 times before. Teenagers don’t know “Disease of the Week” movies. But it’s not impossible to bring conflict as surprise to a genre like this. You just have to aim higher.

  3. gloganwriter says:

    Have no idea why this movie was getting so much hype, it looks pretty terrible

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