There are a lot of people out there who will tell you a lot of different things about author John Green, from whom we’ve seen books such as Paper Towns, Will Greyson, will greyson, and Looking For Alaska, among others. As an aspiring YA novelist myself (one can dream), he is one of the mainstream literary figures I look up to, not for his actual writing (which is quirky and fine), but for how attached he is to each and every one of his books and characters, the most prominent of which is the summer sleeper hit adaptation of his most successful novel of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars.
The film was expected to do well at the box office because of the book’s best-seller status, but the result was one of the highest grossing films of the year, quite a feat for an independent, indie film. And for good reason.
The Fault in Our Stars stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in lead roles, with additional performances from Nat Wolff, and two time Academy Award nominees Laura Dern and Williem Defoe. It talks about two cancer-stricken teens on a voyage of first love, vying for as much time as they could have with each other before their inevitable death — whether because of cancer or otherwise.
The film truly celebrates the innocence of first love, and that is largely due to the acting performances it featured. Having read the book, I was surprised by the casting choices, albeit quickly getting used to Shailene Woodley leading the picture. Elgort, however, was another story.
Going in, I didn’t think Ansel Elgort would do a good job. I honestly didn’t. But I was quite surprised with his performance as Augustus Waters, an eloquent amputee with a knack for video games. Elgort managed to show the quirky, care-free spirit of Augustus in the same way the character is portrayed in the novel. He also managed showcase the darker side of the character; the insecure, death-fearing teen longing to be remembered. That said, as good a job as Elgort did, I still found myself missing that individual bond with the character. There was nothing specific about him that had me latching on to the character until the very last second. SPOILER ALERT: I found myself grieving for the relationship between the two more than I was grieving for him by the end.
The same cannot be said for Woodley. Here is an actress I truly believe is one to watch. She plays Hazel-Grace Lancaster, a cancer survivor forced to go to a support group to please her parents’ wishes. But more than that, she represents the innocence of a first of everything that has to do with experiencing one’s first relationship, and she does a fantastic job bringing the character — and all its nuances — to life in an effortless manner that is up-lifting to say the least. The film became my favourite of her’s almost instantly. With her, you laugh, you cry, you hurt, you smile; you feel, and that is ultimately what her counterpart lacked.
The rest of the cast also does a good job. Wolff plays Augustus’s best friend Isaac, a heart-broken teen recovering from the loss of hos girlfriend Monica — and his eyesight. Defoe delivers as expected, playing Hazel-Grace’s favourite author. As for Dern, the role of a mother is probably written to fit her because she’s so perfect for it. Be it in Wild or The Fault in Our Stars, Dern shines.
Aside from the phenomenal acting on Woodley‘s part, the movie boasted a superb score. The music was perfect for the movie, and brought up the best of its narrative to light. From Kodaline to Birdy to Ed Sheeran, the film made use of mostly mainstream artists in the best ways possible.
Another great aspect is the adaptation of the novel. The script, save for the ending, was almost entirely similar to the book. I think it might be the most well-adapted script I’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s always nice to see a movie that does its source material justice.
Something I really appreciated about the film is that it didn’t take advantage of the cancer aspect. It’s a movie that just features cancer instead of being about cancer. Going in, that was one concern I had in mind, so I’m glad it wasn’t the case.
The film had some individually beautiful scenes, but failed to flow as a package at times. It really did feel like the characters were in their own separate world, and we, as viewers, were invited to witness it. But as much as that helped the movie, it also hurt it. At certain points, it felt like they were doing their own thing, and were so into it (which is great for them as actors to lose themselves like that, don’t get me wrong) that it isolated the viewer out. It seemed like the couple had had so many off-screen moments that the viewer had missed out on. They became close very quickly. Too quickly.
Another thing I felt could be improved was pacing. I loved the pace of the first hour, but by the end of the movie, felt like it could have done with sime extra time. The last few chapters of the book really dig into the characters and examine the bleakness of cancer and its effect on the people around it. The last hour of the movie doesn’t get into it as much as it could’ve, and that took away from an ending that could have been a bit better. That said, the actual concluding scene was fantastic. The perfect word to describe it would be hopeful, and that’s true of the movie as a whole.
This is basically John Green‘s baby, and so much heart was put into this, be it from the actors or the crew or the author that you can’t help but feel it. A movie that celebrates young love in the best way possible, The Fault in Our Stars is triumph of emotion, love, acting, and music. It is the Young Adult movie of 2014, and is not to be missed, despite its flaws. Tune in on July 24 for the big screen adaptation of another of Green‘s novels, Paper Towns.
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