Long before I had heard of this film, for some reason I felt like I had thought of the idea for it. I could be imagining things, but I guess everyone always wonders what it's like to have cancer and how the struggles we encounter everyday don't even match the true hardships others have to conquer. We go on with our everyday lives taking everyday for granted, every ounce of oxygen we receive, every step, all of the amount of love we get. It's a part of human nature to throw away what we might be fighting for in the future, or in the case of this movie, not appreciating those things. Not only is The Fault in Our Stars a real and honest love story, but at the center of it is a real and honest story about cancer.
I for one, have never had cancer, so it would be wrong of me to say they got everything right in the movie let alone the novel; but, I can attest that this film is a really good adaptation of the beloved book by John Green. I forced myself to read the three hundred and thirteen page book two days before I saw the film. This review is based solely on the film. I will try my best to not compare it to the book for hardback and cinema are two completely different mediums. I have to point out that, like every other book-to-film adaptation, the movie does take certain liberties. There are scenes that I would have liked to see on the big screen that didn't get translated into the script or got cut. There are characters I would have liked to see more of. There are always things people will want to change because every individual views a movie differently. However, this is the film we got and I, for one, strongly approve.
The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) centers around a young adult female named Hazel Grace Lancester who is suffering from Stage 4 Thyroid Cancer with metastasis forming in her lungs. She inadvertently befriends and falls in love with a young man named Augustus Waters at her Support Group and what ensues is a story both inspiring and heartbreaking. Throughout the film, audience members are thrust into Hazel's world. We feel her pain, her desires to be "normal', her longing for a relationship forever but most importantly, her desire to feel wanted. What I hope people will do is not only think about these things while they watch the movie, but also when they walk out and continue with their lives. TFIOS establishes that Hazel can look down upon life quite often but there's a sense of wonder and optimism in her that cannot be described justifiably. Shailene Woodley has the ultimate task of bringing this character to life and she succeeds in every way possible. I have always supported Woodley ever since the inception of her career. If you haven't seen the films, The Spectacular Now and The Descendants, do yourself a favor and watch them (it's two of her first films). Woodley completely loses herself in her character. The way she walks and talks are the more obvious mannerisms she tackles well, but it's the more subtle nuances that completely blew me away: eye movements, the way she breathed, quivered and deliberately paused between lines. Woodley carries the entire film on her shoulders and in order for that to be possible she needs to invest us very emotionally (considering the subject matter) and make us believe that not only IS she this character, but the fact that everything the character will do is something SHE will do. Woodley is absolutely sensational in this film. Every line that was taken out of the book and given to her is spoken with such precision and perfection that in the end, we're not watching Shailene Woodley embark on this journey of both tragic and heartfelt, we're watching Hazel Grace Lancester do simply that.
However, this isn't a story about just Hazel Grace Lancester. It is just as much a story about Augustus Waters and his journey. Barely a newcomer to film, Ansel Elgort has the ultimate task of bringing this character to life and, just like Woodley, he does so in the most magnificent way. Both of these characters were so fleshed out and detailed in the novel that it would have obviously been extremely difficult to capture all the same characteristics on screen but somehow they pull it off. When the credits roll, it feels like we've spent an entire lifetime with these characters and that's a tip of the hat to both the screenwriter and the actors. Elgort, who I'm going to be honest and say I haven't been impressed with for the past several films he's been in, is easily going to be sticking around in Hollywood for the years to come. This performance is his easily his best by far. The array of emotions he must convey on screen is so vast that any young actor would be terrified to do, but he does it so effortlessly. He does have somewhat of a rough start, being a little bit over the top in playing "the cool kid" and the "I don't give a sh*t attitude" but as the movie progresses, Elgort seeps more and more into this character, it's mesmerizing to watch the transformation ensue.
Despite the fact that this is a film surrounding a couple's struggle with cancer, the script meshes a good amount of humor with the drama. May it have been a bit too much? Maybe, but that's a minor setback. For the most part, the humor works and when the tone gets serious and heartbreaking, it works as well. It's inevitable that a movie about cancer will summon the tears and when these scenes play out, it is truly heartbreaking.The dialogue in the film is so believable and gives each and every character so much depth and meaning that in the end, you feel for everyone. These scenes are spaced evenly throughout the movie and it never feels bloated. Every second is pivotal to telling the story and further developing these characters. Not a moment is wasted but I do believe several moments could have been trimmed down. The movie does run barely over two hours and at some points I did feel it slowing down. However, you fall in love with these characters so much that it doesn't matter because you just want to be with them longer and cheer or cry for them.
Music is a vital component to keeping the pacing of a film seem fluid and even. The soundtrack is exceptional and the addition of M83 was brilliant. Their song, "Wait" added a completely different atmosphere to the film and as the narrative was wrapping up, it legitimately felt like we'd been with these characters for an entire lifetime and were saying goodbye to them. When moments are sad and emotional, the music is very subtle and allows to the actors to further enhance their performances which was a great move.
As I mentioned earlier, TFIOS is about a love story but it's so much more than that. It would be a crime to consider it a chick flick because, one, you don't have to be a girl to fall in love, and two, you don't have to be a girl to understand cancer. It's a story about life and the struggles people all around us have to live with that sometimes we don't pay enough attention to. We get tired of carrying a backpack for a day and don't realize that some people need to do that every second of their lives with an oxygen tank. We get tired of running and don't realize that some people don't have the chance to even stand since they are missing a leg. We don't take a second to admire the sunset and visuals of the world when there are people who'll never know what a sunset even looks like. I hope, and even though I'm not affiliated with this film, that people will walk out changed. Movies can be more powerful than we expect them to be and even if you end up not being a fan of this film, I think it is possible for everyone to walk out with a different mindset about the world and true optimism. TFIOS isn't demanding attention, you should give your attention. In a world where we fall in and out of love, a world where we take everything for granted, TFIOS gives us a look inside the lives of people who treasure every second because any second could be their last. Some may complain that the film is just a tearjerker and wants to make you feel pity for the characters. Cancer is real and it's not happy story. For two hours, we delve into the lives of a couple madly in love despite their losses and pursue this story that is incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking. You feel that everyone who was a part in making this film really cared about the source material and just wanted to make a film that would feel real. Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancester are two of the most inspiring characters we've seen on the big screen this year and the messages and lessons they deliver will, hopefully, live on forever, and change the lives of many. While the film does have several minor setbacks, as a whole, it's really good. There are some cliche moments, some of the humor seems out of place and the chemistry between Augustus and Hazel has a small, rough start. Although it's sad, it's not the saddest and although it's very good, it's not the greatest, however, The Fault in Our Stars claims that you will walk away from it unaltered; and if you have a heart and tangible emotions, then that, my friend, is true.
I give The Fault in Our Stars a 9/10.
(There's also a great cameo from Willem Dafoe)