Movies & Television

The saving (Hazel) Grace of “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014)

The Fault in Our Stars movie posterI just finished watching The Fault in Our Stars, the movie adaptation of John Green’s book of the same name. I’m not underwhelmed, but I am just regular whelmed.  Having read (and kind of loved) The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) the book, I knew kind of what to expect from the film.

There would, in my estimation, be many tears. Or at least that’s what I thought.

WARNING: THE REST OF THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AND FILM.

The movie, just like the book, is about a teenager named Hazel, who is living with cancer. One day, she goes to cancer support group and meets the charming and handsome Augustus Waters, and slowly Hazel begins to fall for him. Hazel just hopes her “crap lungs” can keep on being lungs long enough for them to go on a trip to Amsterdam to meet her idol—the elusive (reclusive) American author of her favorite book: An Imperial Affliction.

One of the most charming parts of the book is Hazel’s voice. Hazel is a great narrator, and one of the best parts of the book was seeing and hearing events through her perspective. One thing the movie creators did right was keeping that voice, in the form of a voiceover narration. Having a narrator can be weird at times (try watching the filmic adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway without cringing), but when done right, they enhance the story, instead of distract from it (think (500) Days of Summer or HBO’s Band of Brothers). The narration in TFIOS is done by Shailene Woodley, who also plays Hazel, or Hazel Grace.

Woodley is almost surprisingly good in this movie. I can see why John Green heartily supported her casting. She’s incredibly talented, and her acting is what pulls the movie back to the ground whenever it starts to get too self-inflated. She just seems like a real, down-to-earth person.

Another great acting surprise was Nat Wolff, who played Isaac, one of her friends from cancer kid support group. He played the role with just the right combination of humor and seriousness. I was really impressed. And can we talk about how much I love Laura Dern? She’s amazing.

I was not, however, all too impressed with Ansel Elgort’s portrayal of Augustus. He was somehow too charming. Where Woodley was grounded and offered a very emotional performance, Elgort seemed to just be too… happy all of the time. Like a somewhat smarmy puppy dog. Though I admit, he was somewhat limited in his options: the movie producers seemed to have glossed over some of the more emotional parts from the book—like Gus’s losing battle with cancer, or his back story about his dead ex-girlfriend— or maybe with the book it’s just easier to fill in the gaps with your imagination.

In any case, I was disappointed in Elgort, but very impressed with Woodley, Wolff, and Dern.

As far as book-to-film adaptations go, this one was pretty spot-on. Fans will likely miss some of the smaller details they left out of the book, but the film felt very true to the source material, if slightly watered down emotionally. I didn’t cry in the film, but I sobbed while reading the book. But then there was a teenage girl in the theater with me (there were only five people, including me, in the theater when I saw it) who was sobbing and seemed genuinely shocked with Gus actually died. If I were a few years younger, I would’ve eaten this movie up. I’m 25, for the record.

To sum up: if you’re a fan of the book, you’ll probably like the film. To be honest, I just don’t see it as having much staying power, but then how many teen romance movies do? (This is a serious question, I can’t think of any right now.)

The Fault in Our Stars stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, and Willem Dafoe. The film is rated PG-13 and is currently playing in theaters.

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