The latest tearjerker from director Josh (Stuck in Love) Boone faithfully adapts the John Green novel of the same name. Be prepared to follow the vastly complex and undeniably memorable characters of The Fault in Our Stars through just about every emotion imaginable as they navigate their journey that is sentimental, chaotic, believable, maddening, awe-inspiring, and shockingly poignant for a 2014 summer release. The beloved book tells the story of two teenagers who meet and fall in love after attending a cancer support group. What follows is a witty banter-filled romantic comedy with all to real real life drama interjecting whenever the audience starts to feel safe. This is not your average rom-com. Nor is it your average tragic love story. Just like his feature film debut, Boone has mastered the genre and redefined it along the way. Romance movies are not dead.
Stars Shailene (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Descendants) Woodley and Ansel (Carrie, Divergent) Elgort play the star-crossed lovers, with added star power coming in the form of actress Laura (Jurassic Park, Blue Velvet) Dern as the strong and optimistic mother, Willem (Platoon, The Clearing) Dafoe as the eccentric writer whose work inspires the young couple to keep fighting, and Nat (Admission, The Naked Brothers Band) Wolff as the best friend / comic relief / absolute heart of the story. Wolff steals every scene he is in and really brings out the best in each actor he shares the screen with throughout the entire film.
But like most films of this touchy genre, it does feature a slight flaw. As opposed to most blockbuster tearjerkers, it never falls over the line into preachy or cheesy. It walks the line quite well and embraces the fact that it is naive in its approach to life and death and everything in between, but that is what made the novel so likable. Of course it has a small worldview... It is from the point-of-view of a bitter and angry girl who will never get to experience life to its fullest. No, the flaw comes in the lead actress. Though her chemistry with Elgort is immediately believable, it seems like Woodley is simply phoning in her performance for the first half of the film. The character is much more complex than her performance illustrated, but perhaps she was simply playing it cool, just like the character would. Her portrayal of Hazel is by no means a terrible one, but it begs the question at the end of a viewing if the movie would have been great rather than good had a more experienced actress been given the role. Either way, the film still stands as both a faithful adaptation and another worthy addition to Josh Boone's resume.