I was nervous going into The Fault in Our Stars. I really liked the book, although it had been hyped up quite a bit, and I knew that the trailers made the movie look like a cheesy and somewhat “hip” adaptation. The movie, however, blew away my doubts and resulted in probably the saddest movie you’ll see all year or for quite some time.
For all of you who haven’t read the bestseller, The Fault in Our Stars follows Hazel (Shailene Woodley), a young girl suffering from cancer. She is bitter and snarky about her condition. She does not have any apparent friends (her one friend in the novel was cut from the film), and she feels like she is just a “grenade” waiting to go off. Her mom (Laura Dern) urges her to go to the group counseling at the local church. This is where she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), the boy who will eventually sweep her off her feet.
From the get-go, it is clear that Woodley shines in her performance. We grow so attached to her by the end of the film. Her performance brings the character from the pages of the book to life. The cancer has made her flawed. Not in the physical sense, but in the fact that she tries to build a shell around her life and is fearful of anybody getting close since she thinks she could die at any time. Her relationship with Augustus is fueled with such great chemistry that you would assume that they were actually a couple. Elgort, who starred with Woodley previously in Divergent is excellent in this as well. He will certainly be making more of a name for himself after this film. Their chemistry helps make the movie—which could come off as just a sucker-punching tear fest—into something where everything happens naturally without making it feel too forced or contrived.
But sadly, not in a disappointing way, the film is still a tear fest. We know we are being set up for a huge emotional climax. We know that the cancer is forever present. We know we are going to cry; yet we go along for the journey because it feels true. With the movie clocking in at slightly over two hours, I did feel that it was long, but never did I not enjoy the ride. Even having read the book, the events of the movie still hit harder than I expected, resulting in multiple occasions of tear-filled eyes. I cannot say the same for the other people in attendance, though, because I heard several sobs from people behind me, and even some lingered into the credits. The movie is an emotional roller coaster right until the very end, so be prepared.
The supporting cast supports the main cast admirably. Dern as Hazel’s mother is a heartbreaking and real performance. Her character explains that even if Hazel were to die, she would still be a mother, and man do we lose it. Also supporting is Willem Dafoe, in yet another rough and unpleasant character, as well as Nat Wolff from the Naked Brothers Band who plays the star-crossed lovers’ friend. Word has already been spread that he will be starring in another John Green adaptation, Paper Towns, so be on the lookout for that.
In terms of actual filmmaking, there are a couple qualms that need addressing. Near the beginning of the film, the movie appears to be cut together by an editor who lacks any experience at all. I never really address editing in my reviews but there are some exceptionally bad moments in editing and sound editing. Sometimes it feels like the film is turning into an action film with some rather quick cuts that are done just for the sake of getting a different angle.
In the end, The Fault in Our Stars will leave you in tears. It is an emotional journey along with two kids who have cancer and it reminds us to live life to the fullest and to never let the adverse elements in our lives keep us from living the life we want. We, like the characters, get to choose who or what hurts us. So, if you want to let some emotions out, go let this movie hurt you because it hurts so good.