THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Thematic Elements, some Sexuality and brief Strong Language

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Directed by: Josh Boone

Written by: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

(based on the novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green)

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia & Willem Dafoe

Love stories are as old as time itself. It makes sense that Romance is the most overpopulated movie genre of all time. At this point, everything has withered into standard clichés, a bad soundtrack made up of forgettable pop songs, and a specific formula that has become tedious to say the least. There’s no doubt in my mind that nearly every young couple in America will be going on a date this weekend to FAULT IN OUR STARS and the popularity of the novel backs up that claim. In this case, that’s not a bad thing. FAULT is the most honest romance movie I’ve seen in a long while. It does hit a few clichés while following a well-worn formula, but circumstances have been shaken up in such a way that this is a refreshing love story that is worth your time.

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Hazel Lancaster has been battling cancer for a good portion of her life and as a result, is hooked up to a portable oxygen tank. Reluctantly attending group therapy sessions at the insistence of her mother, Hazel meets Gus. He’s a cancer survivor, but lost his leg in the process of beating the disease. The two begin a friendship that becomes something far more special. It seems as if they were made for each other, but Hazel is hesitant on loving Gus for fear of her imminent untimely death being a “grenade” (as she describes it) to those around her. However, Gus doesn’t care and what follows is a beautifully told love story that, although being predictable, makes for a sad and ultimately uplifting experience.

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FAULT IN OUR STARS raises a lot of good points about love and life itself. One being that death is bound to happen to all of us, so why not make ourselves the best person we can become and enjoy life while it lasts. It’s unusual to see a teenage-oriented novel being adapted to the big screen with such a sense of maturity and respect for the filmgoer (as well as the fans of the book itself). There’s certain to be a lot of people who will snicker at the idea of sitting through FAULT IN OUR STARS and chalking it up as another one-dimensional love story in the vein of those lame Nicholas Sparks movies. That’s absolutely not the case here. This is far more along the same thought-probing and emotional lines of something like PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, where young life isn’t glamorized and these characters go through plenty of real-world problems.

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The film isn’t without a few faults of its own. There’s a corny factor that comes in a few scenes that seem particularly made to get teenage girls to swoon. Luckily, these moments can be counted on a single hand and don’t last very long. Everything progresses naturally enough to be believable, even if the storyline is predictable in a lot of ways. FAULT’s biggest problem is Ansel Elgort’s role of Gus. He comes off as a good-natured individual that seems to genuinely care about Hazel and is deeply in love with her. However, the boy just comes off as too perfect in a lot of areas. It’s clear that this person is a construction of a writer and actor on the screen. It’s every girl’s dream to find a guy as perfect as Gus, but nobody is as flawless as him. We only see the good things about Gus and when there’s one moment that showcases him on a bit of a more upsetting level it’s sugar-coated. To reveal only one side about such a pivotal character in this story feels a little dishonest to the viewer, especially in a film that nails nearly everything else with such realistic accuracy.

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Elgort’s performance is good, but I just have a problem with how the character was written. The real praise deservedly goes to Shailene Woodley as Hazel. Amazing is putting it lightly, she becomes this character and makes us feel for her every second in the film. I loved watching her and this seemed like a real person brought to the screen. The same can be said for everybody else, but Woodley is nothing short of astounding in her role. I really didn’t like her in DIVERGENT, but she did a 180 degree turn for this film (ironically an adaptation of another young adult novel, albeit completely different in quality). Her career is destined for great things, if she keeps up quality roles like this one.

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Rest assured that plenty of people will be crying by the time the credits rolled (bring lots of tissues). I never burst into tears myself, but I admittedly came close to it (I can be an emotional bastard when handed the right material). Props to FAULT IN OUR STARS for being the most realistic romance in the past decade. There are a few faults in this movie seen in Gus’s one-sided character, a sense of familiarity, and a couple of clichéd scenes. Besides these minor issues, everything in the movie feels natural and plays out as such. There is a formula being followed, but it’s being followed in a fresh way. For all of these things, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is remarkable!

Grade: B+

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