In celebration of The Fault In Our Stars finally making its run on iTunes for digital download (this thanks to an announcement by John Green himself), this writer decided it was time to finally jot down some thoughts about the movie that jerked tears and brought to the big screen a wonderful masterpiece by author John Green.
To start this review, let's throw the book out the window - figuratively and literally - and focus intently on just the film. While there are key differences, and the screenplay was adapted from the beloved novel, there are always differences when making that transition from the written word to the big screen, and to suggest that those differences take away from either medium would be a false equivalency.
Shailene Woodley surprises in this role for anyone who knew her on the dog days of "Secret Life Of The American Teenager;" a show that was admittedly a bit underrated, but never really shined spectacularly either as a standalone program or a representation of the teenage Millennial. As Hazel Grace Lancaster she absolutely encapsulates everything we love about the character; her intelligence, wit, style and even brings forth some of the humor and emotion that maybe is lost or unable to be addressed in a narrative. It's difficult to convey the facial expressions and linguistic inflections that make up conversations, and with Woodley in the driver's seat, we got to see more of what made TFiOS such a great story.
Ansel Elgort as well impressed an audience even more. Often when we think of strong male characters (strong, in this sense, meaning three-dimensional, or to put it another way, well-written) in Young Adult Fiction we're not left with much to the imagination, but Elgort captured a whole new side to Gus. We get the handsome and suave male figure, but he's also comical and sincerely captures what it is to be a modern day teenager, especially one surviving something like an amputation in the wake of cancer.
As far as capturing what it's like to have survived cancer however, that's where we fall a little flat. While it's cool that Shailene has a visible disability for the duration of the film, and her disability becomes a key element in many of the scenes that highlight her limitations, mostly what this film emphasizes is the brewing romance between herself and Augustus Waters. The cancer, in this case, is a little bit of a plot device, and while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's a notable "almost-fault."
What really stole the show for this writer, however, was a very small part played by Willem Dafoe. He brought a certain maturity to the role, and gave one of the most real performances of any of the adults written into the script. Even for having maybe a little more than five total minutes of screen time, the simple dialogue he brings to his two scenes sums a lot of the plots intention up for you, and reminds us that it isn't just a romance we're watching.
By the time you reach the end of the film (and we'll spare you spoilers) there's a good chance there will be tears by the number. If you've already read the book, however, and that didn't upset you, the film's portrayal of the events might leave you a little unmoved as well. It's nowhere near as graphic and ugly as it perhaps could have been, but for targeting a younger audience, Josh Boone did okay. The raw emotion, fear and anger that resides in the main character by the last half hour is incredible. Even for being a strong movie overall, the ending does everything to excite those expectations you had walking in.
The Fault In Our Stars is perhaps best classified as a teenage romance in disguise. The romance is a great deal more of the plot than anything else, but there are subtle nods to the text that underscore John Green's metaphorical allegory and save it from being too much of a sappy teenage romance. With just enough equal parts comedy, darkness, emotion, philosophy and romance, The Fault In Our Stars is easily a good purchase to complete the summer with.
The Unrated Extended cut is now available on iTunes.