The Fault In Our Stars Film Review

Film Review by Esther Graham
The Fault In Our Stars

The Premise
Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

The Review
Based on the bestselling YA novel by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars is a surprisingly life-affirming love story between two teens with cancer.

Director Josh Boone is fortunate to be working with some fine source material: a highlight of this film is the intelligent, witty dialogue which mostly derives from Green's novel.  The title itself provides a clue to the higher ambitions of this film: it comes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in which Cassius tells his friend "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." In other words, the problem is not our fate but our human condition.  Hazel and Augustus's fate is to live with cancer.  Despite their bravery and humour in the face of CAT scans and hospital visits, it is "pain that demands to be felt."  And yet, what plagues them are the questions of what comes next.  Augustus fears oblivion and is intent on living an extraordinary life.  Hazel, on the other hand, tells him bluntly "Oblivion is inevitable."   And the success of both book and film is that it is an accessible vehicle not content to rest on its teen-romance laurels and invite its audience to grapple with the meaning of life itself.

Clearly, these are not your average mall-rat teens.  Hazel is refreshingly not the typical blonde, girlish female lead.  Instead, she is an outspoken freckle-faced tomboy with tubes out her nose who has to carry an oxygen tank wherever she goes.  She is obsessed with the novel 'An Imperial Affliction' written by reclusive author Peter Van Houten, and channels her fear regarding what will happen to her family after her death into seeking answers from the author about the fate of his characters.  Augustus, on the other hand, is a little too good-looking to be true, and has a more predictable love of gaming and zombie novels.  However, he shares with Hazel an interest in the metaphysical and a dry wit.  She is initially shocked to see him with an unlit cigarette between his lips until he tells her, "It's a metaphor, see, you put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing.”  

Actors Shailene Woodley (Hazel) and Ansel Elgort (Augustus) will be familiar to viewers of the lesser teen flick Divergent where they play siblings; here their playing of awkward teenage crush moments to kids confronting the reality of death is accomplished and convincing.  Its only occasionally when film too obviously betrays its desire to appeal to the teenage female fantasy when the camera lingers lovingly on Augustus gazing lovingly at Hazel after just meeting her and when people burst into spontaneous applause when they share their first kiss.  In the adult roles, Laura Dern and Sam Trammell are model parents in their groundedness, warmth and  humour.  Willem Dafoe is also well-cast as the cantankerous and eccentric Peter Van Houten.

While the film will certainly have you reaching for the tissues, this is no cliched Hollywood 'disease of the month' tear jerker.   It's a smart, funny film about life, love, growing up and how you keep going.

The Verdict
An adaptation that does justice to fine source material; this is a film that will be enjoyed by both teens and adults.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 5th June 2014
Rating: M - Contains offensive language
Duration: 125 minutes 
Genre:  Romance Drama
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff
Director: Josh Boone (Stuck In Love)

The Extras
Shailene Woodley insisted that her friend Ansel Elgort read not just the script but also the novel before his first meeting with the filmmakers. "I thought, 'If I tell her I haven't read it, she'll be mad during our audition and it would be a mess,'" Elgort recalls. "So I literally read it for Shailene.

Shailene Woodley wrote impassioned letters to author John Green and director Josh Boone. "If I'm passionate about something, I'll do everything I can to try to be a part of it," Woodley asserts. Although Green didn't initially picture Woodley for the part, he "was blown away" when she read for him. "We were all crying. It was actually sort of bad," he laughs. "But it was hers from that moment on."

Brenton Thwaites, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Nick Robinson and Noah Silver were considered for the male lead.

Before Shailene Woodley was cast, Hailee Steinfeld, Liana Liberato and Mary Kate Wiles were considered for the lead role.