The Fault in Our Stars Review

7 Overall Score
Performances : 9/10
Screenplay : 6/10
Direction : 7/10

Lead Performances, Character, Third Act

Awkward Dialogue Patches, Sentimental Moments

“Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.” Og Mandino, an author who worked in the 20th century and a smarter man than I will ever be, advised this to his readers. The theme of overcoming tremendous obstacles and living a fulfilling life has been the basis for a lot of great works of art. The Fault in Our Stars is the latest in this line, but this highly popular story cannot be shortchanged into having one thematic through line. Ultimately, the film attempts to tell a heartbreaking story about coming of age, first love, courage, and facing death (among other things). There’s potential for a powerful, emotionally affecting masterpiece here, a potential that The Fault in Our Stars fulfills sporadically. Having said that, Stars is a sweet, well-made romantic dramedy bolstered by excellent performances and a genuinely honest emotional core.

The Fault in Our Stars is adapted from John Green’s 2012 bestseller of the same name. The story follows Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a teenager whose daily life is a struggle against the hardships of cancer. Carrying around an oxygen tank at all times and content to bury herself in her favorite works of literature, Hazel doesn’t have much use for social contact. That changes when she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), another survivor who lost his leg in the process of recovery. Gus takes a liking to Hazel, and she to him, as the two develop a romance built on mutual strength and compassion.

Stars’s success as a unique yet human tale of young romance hinges on the relationship between Hazel and Gus. We as an audience need to buy into their love for the more emotional beats to work, and kudos to the casting director for finding the two right people for the roles. Woodley, per usual, is phenomenal; her Hazel is as curious and infectious as she is insecure and unstable. She continues to show an enormous amount of dramatic range as one of the best young actresses working today. More surprisingly, Elgort is her equal in every way possible as the confidently smooth-talking Gus. The young actor oozes charisma and features a very easy screen presence, while also nailing the darker moments. The two (who worked together as brother and sister in March’s Divergent) have dynamic chemistry, and the scenes featuring little other than their banter are among the best in the film.

The adaptation of source material such as this can be difficult because of the delicacy of the material. The writers of The Fault in Our Stars, Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, are behind two of the better romantic films of the past decade, having penned 2009’s (500) Days of Summer and last year’s The Spectacular Now. Their work here is solid, if slightly less impressive. There are moments of awkward dialogue patches throughout Fault that clearly work better on page than onscreen, and it’s in those moments where the film divulges into overly sentimental schmaltz. I also wasn’t crazy about some of the writing for the supporting characters, whether it be the underutilization of Nat Wolff’s comic relief friend Isaac, or the slight mishandling of a character played by Willem Dafoe.

Although there may be a few missteps along the way, Neustadter, Weber, and director Josh Boone are sure to get the important things right. The creative team sets up the appropriate amount of character moments and charming scenes in the first two acts for their big finish, and they absolutely stick the landing. The third act of Stars is upsetting and devastating in the best way possible, and stands to be one of the most realistic and emotional finishes to a film I’ve ever seen. It serves as an excellent coda, a mix of tears and joy all mixed into one bittersweet package.

The Fault in Our Stars is not a romantic masterpiece. It occasionally falls into the “young-adult” trappings that it frequently subverts, and in those moments is too sentimental for its own good. However, this an extraordinary story that is told with a certain amount of reverence that is downright shocking in today’s Hollywood. It’s certainly worth a look if only for the lead performances and the rich thematic material. The Fault in Our Stars shoots for the furthest depths of the solar systems, and never reaches there, but at least it shines as bright as the moons of Jupiter.

 

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Author: Andrew Auger View all posts by
Andrew Auger is a student at Marist College and is majoring in Journalism. He is a huge fan of movies, and considers the late film critic Roger Ebert his idol. He hopes to one day be a prestigious film critic just like Mr. Ebert.

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