Film Review “The Fault in Our Stars”

fault-our-stars-movie-posterStarring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Laura Dern
Directed By: Josh Boone
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 125 minutes
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Cancer is still one of the touchiest subjects in pop culture. One has to slowly tiptoe around it or find a way to perfectly skate along the razor wire topic and avoid many offensive pitfalls. “The Fault in Our Stars” hits the right chords perfectly with this topic. At times it’s our source of laughter, in multiple instances it’s our plot motivator, and most obviously, it’s the one thing that ready to viciously rip out our hearts and stomp on it.

Woodley dazzles once again, this time as the sardonic teenager, Hazel Grace Lancaster. She’s a terminally sick girl who continues to stave off the cancer that crippled her lungs, with an experimental treatment and an oxygen tank from a bag she pulls behind her. She’s in denial of her own growing depression and is heavily pushed by her ‘smile through the tears’ parents into a cancer support group run by a complacent dweeb with an acoustic guitar. She catches the fleeting glances of an astute and charming boy by the name of Augustus Waters (Elgort), but Gus for short. He has defeated his cancerous foe, but at the cost of his right leg. Rarely do I remember people’s names without writing them down, but these two constantly say each other’s full names with such affection it wasn’t too hard to remember this time around.

Hazel is repeatedly laying down some unspoken life truths that are a mix of harsh realities and sarcastic quips, which is sometimes the best way to come to terms with such a terminal predicament. Woodley once again proves she has some superior acting chops; everything from wordless facial expressions to the emotional complexities of such a strenuous situation. Her near perfect performance is so fantastic, the cracks in Elgort’s acting sometimes show when he has to provide an array of reactionary emotions. Hazel and Gus will obviously fall in love, but their story is a grand one for the current generation of young adults and teens that smile from flirtatious text messages and have a live in the moment motto.

Despite Hazel’s power to blatantly accept her untimely end, she’s unable to bear the notion of affection from others, referring to herself as an emotional grenade waiting to go off. That’s where Gus comes in, to counteract that inclination and channel her gloomy acceptance of death into wanting to live before death comes knocking and accept that the inevitable heartbreak will happen, but they need to enjoy what time is left. Of course nothing is that simple. A wrench isn’t simply thrown into the young love life of these two, but an entire damn toolbox.

The two writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, have had some success portraying imperfect romances with “The Spectacular Now” and “(500) Days of Summer”. They have a knack of creating equilibrium between the sappy moments we’ve come to expect from romantic movies with that authentic sorrow that comes from the flaws of everyday people. The plot and characters are so heartwarming, yet despondent; I’m willing to forgive a lot of the typical tropes it employs.

Don’t be fooled though. Between every cutesy smile and lighthearted joke lies some thought provoking philosophies about our personal experiences and demise. Hazel and Gus represent a multitude of attitudes in their over two hour runtime. The last 30 minutes is a cascade of some of the most depressing, yet uplifting scenes I’ve seen all year. If this movie doesn’t remotely pluck at your heartstrings, you definitely have no soul.

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