In “The Fault in Our Stars,” Hazel is a teenage girl who has been diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer. Though she has found a medicine that keeps the cancer at bay, she must use an oxygen tank to help her breathe at all times, and the cancer shows no signs of leaving. She attends a church support group where she meets another cancer patient named Augustus and the two become inseparable in this adaptation of John Green’s bestselling novel, directed by Josh Boone. Shailene Woodley stars in the lead role of Hazel, while Ansel Elgort plays Augustus. Nat Wolff co-stars as Augustus’ best friend and Laura Dern turns in a performance worth mentioning as Hazel’s mother.
The film is very faithful to the novel in both tone and plot. Sometimes, taking entire passages and inserting them into the screenplay, which was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who also teamed up to write “The Spectacular Now” and “(500) Days of Summer.”
The obvious part of the plot to examine is the love story that develops between Hazel and Gus and it’s very well paced and portrayed by everyone involved. There really isn’t a false note in that part of the story and the movie is a tear jerker in this regard. All of the characters are believable, except maybe Elgort’s Augustus, who could come off too cocky and annoying at times. The movie also refuses to be too down to earth or gritty. Instead of Hazel going waking up unable to breathe one night, the screen goes black and she literally narrates: “And then, this happened…” Why not just surprise us with her waking up terrified? Seemed like a strange choice and rubbed me the wrong way. However, I’m getting picky.
At its core, the story is a love story, but it is also a wakeup call to society. The story explores the perception that people have of the ill. When healthy people notice a person in a wheelchair or with a nasal cannula attached to their face, as Hazel wears for most of the film, they automatically label them as “sick.” There are multiple times when Hazel or Gus are just trying to do something for themselves, something that millions of other people do so easily, yet their physical condition won’t allow it by no fault of their own. Despite this, they are living a life that most would envy (minus the cancer.) They love, they desire, they feel pain, they are human in every other way and the story demands that we stop looking at sick people as aliens or dead people that haven’t died yet.
Most sick people and the ones in this story didn’t choose the cards they were dealt. They for some unknown reason had shitty luck and are playing the game the best they can, while they still can. The title of the story is a play on a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In the first act of the play, Cassius says to Brutus, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.’ However, in the case of Hazel, Gus and so many others that we all encounter every day, the fault was indeed in their stars. This is one of the best book-to-movie adaptations you will find out there because it is basically the book on screen. Woodley is a terrific Hazel and Boone’s direction is great, particularly when he focuses on what the parents are going through. If you have skipped the book, this is a great tear jerker with a heavy handed score to help the tears start flowing and for fans of the book, they will fall in love with this movie the same way they fell in love with the book: slowly, and then all at once. Grade: B+
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