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'The Fault in Our Stars': not a terrible film but not a very good one either

The Fault in Our Stars

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Perhaps the age old saying is true. The movie is never quite as good as the book. There are some notable exceptions, such as "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" but despite the best of efforts, "The Fault in Our Stars" based on the novel by John Green, is not one of those exceptions. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Nat Wolff.

Cancer sucks. This is a fact. But what made the novel so brilliant is that it is not a "cancer" book. It's not even "one sick love story" as the tagline from the movie suggests. The cancer which effects Hazel (played by Woodley), Augustus (Elgort) and Isaac (Wolff) in the book is simply a metaphor (something Gus would appreciate) for what's killing us all - life. The cancer could have been anything really it just serves as a tool in which to make the young characters stop and think about their lives, love, and each other. Green's story is so beloved because it's universal. We're all grenades, "The Fault in Stars" just has the guts to say it out loud. The book smartly defies cliches and conventions of the "cancer story" genre but the movie embraces them and as a result is predictable and somewhat manipulative. Which is a shame, because the book is so much more than some lifetime movie or a Lurlene McDaniel novel. However, this is not to say that Woodley doesn't try her hardest to make the film into something more.

Shailene Woodley is one of Hollywood's most in demand actresses. Some might call her overrated but even her harshest critics will change their mind after seeing her in "The Fault in Our Stars." It's hard to tell what the other actors are doing here, most of their scenes come off more like a dress rehearsal with awkward line reads and stilted blocking, but Woodley is fantastic in a authentic and raw performance. Elgort, while likable enough, doesn't capture the Augustus from the book at all. His Augustus doesn't seem like real person but merely just the unrealistically awesome guy who came into Hazel's life one day. Though this may not be entirely Elgort's fault. He does have a few moving moments that come through and most of the scenes from the novel that add depth to Gus are gone. I think some over directing by Josh Boone might be part of the problem. Still, having seen Nat Wolff at the "Fault in Our Stars" BookCon Panel, (he's practically a non entity in the film - a shame because Book Isaac is hilarious) his real life persona might have made him a much better Gus.

In the film, Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen year old girl who meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group meeting. The pair quickly fall in love and bond over their mutual love of the book "An Imperial Affliction" and then travel to Amsterdam to meet its author. "The Fault in Our Stars" knows what audience it's marketed towards. Hazel and Gus come off as very, very young in the film throughout the various plot twists and as a result lose some of the ageless appeal they had in the book. If you're an older fan of the story you might feel a bit silly bearing witness to the film which definitely was made with sixteen year old girls in mind.

Overall, "The Fault in Our Stars" is not a terrible film but it is unfortunately not a very great one either. In the opening lines of the film, Hazel says "Sorry" to the audience because her story is not a typical love story. Sadly though, despite it's promising material and opening lines, it is.