126 Min | Drama – Romance | June 2014
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Josh Boone
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff
The Fault in Our Stars Review: These days, young-adult fiction is everywhere, dystopian stories of moody youths undergoing strife, war and heartache, as in The Hunger Games or Divergent, are dominating the bestseller lists and popping up in cineplexes. What’s so unusual about The Fault In Our Stars, an adaptation of John Green’s best-selling novel, is that it locates the dystopia and war within the bodies of its teenage protagonists. These kids aren’t battling an evil regime or fascist overlords, they’re struggling to survive against the merciless onslaught of cancer. Green’s book is a bit of an odd beast, touching but manipulative, genuine and fake, all at the same time. The resulting film, being hugely faithful to its source material, thus manages to pull off the same curious trick of overwhelming and underwhelming the viewer, often in the same breath.
But, for everything that feels raw and real in the film, The Fault In Our Stars also comes across as overly plotted. Hazel and Augustus are designed specifically to break your heart and swell your tear ducts, which is why their relationship can sometimes feel painstakingly constructed. They are, quite literally, made for each other, which weighs down rather than frees the story in which they find themselves. Their interactions with the troubled, prickly Van Houten also lose some impact in the move away from the page, where his words, ideas and general depravity can take fuller form. In the film, Dafoe ensures that Van Houten remains tough to like, but the character’s rougher edges are sanded away in a half-hearted bid for redemption.
Ultimately, the film – which lifts entire lines and scenes wholesale from Green’s text – triumphs and suffers where the book does. The relationship between Hazel and Augustus, when stripped to its core, is a heart-breaking/warming account of a soul-deep connection that matters all the more for its tragic brevity. There’s a lot of welcome, saddening depth in The Fault in Our Stars, too, about the everyday heroism of children being forced to live on the brink of death everyday. But this is also a deliberately manipulative tale, one that hinges on an awkward twist that practically dares you not to care and cry about what’s going on. It’s an effective tactic, for the most part, but one that doesn’t earn so much as exhaust its audiences’ affections.