The Fault in Our Stars – 4 out of 5
When I first saw the trailers for The Fault in Our Stars, my gut reaction was that this was a feature for tweens and teens. I won’t say I thought it was a “Chick Flick” because it’s 2015 and those ideas that pertain to those gender roles are pretty much non-existent now—besides, if you have a heart that is capable of love and deep emotions, everyone should be getting down with romantic films and dramas that pull on the old heartstrings. Regardless, I didn’t think I would enjoy this one not because of a gender thing but more due to an age thing. It’s about two teens falling in love and I’m a jaded man approaching middle age. Falling in love when you’re in your mid-30s is not as whimsical as it was when you were in high school. So, honestly, that was the only thing about the movie that screamed, “This isn’t for you, Rev.” However, gut reactions aren’t always correct and I stopped using them a long time ago to judge whether I will see a movie or not. So, I have to say, I was completely wrong about this one.
|Of course, if someone told me that Willem Dafoe was in the film I might|
have seen it earlier...
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Divergent’s Shailene Woodley) is, for the most part, a normal teenager. She’s smart, well-read and filled with an insightful wit and sense of humor. The problem she has is she has terminal thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs and now leaves her in need of an oxygen tank to breathe. One day at a support group meeting (which is led by one of my favorite stand-up comedians; Mike Birbiglia) she finds she is being checked out by Augustus Waters (a character who sounds like he's about to take a trip to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and is played by Ansel Elgort). Waters is a bone cancer survivor who lost his leg and is taken by Hazel Grace. After some initial resistance, the two start to bond and what follows is a budding romance between two youths.
|This is Mike Birgiblia. He is hysterical.|
Like I stated, I didn’t really think this would be a film for the good old reverend. However, since I started this blog, I’ve realized I’ve become way more open-minded about films and am now giving movies a shot that I never would have even considered ten years ago. Sometimes I watch these new things just to review them for the blog or for another site I contribute to (The Robot’s Pajamas, check it out. It’s a great Geek Collective site and I’m not saying that just because I occasionally write for it and it’s run by my friends. I seriously love the site and it’s one of the few sites I religiously check out on a daily basis) and other times I watch them because I figure why not give a film I would normally write-off a chance. Regardless of the why when it comes to the films I watch, I’ve found that sometimes when I watch a film that I was reserved about seeing that my reservations were completely incorrect and I’ve watched something that is extremely well put-together. That is the case with The Fault in Our Stars.
|She was playing a role but I feel like, because of the character's terminal disease,|
I can't make a joke here.
The story for TFiOS, based on a novel by John Green, is very moving and dramatic. You would think that a feature about two teens finding love with each other while simultaneously seeing their time on this planet run out due to their terminal diseases would be very heavy and probably very depressing but what makes the film great is how the story focuses more on the relationship between Hazel and Gus and how they go from being friends to falling in love. Yes, the film still deals with the diseases and tragedy that comes with them but it never feels like what is transpiring is meant to bring you down. The film focuses on the positive and really highlights the hopes and joys that both characters feel and bring out in each other. I won’t pull any punches and try and claim that tears didn’t come out of my eyes during moments but the tears weren’t always from sad happenings. The story is actually quite beautiful in the way that it, to quote Monty Python, always looks on the bright side of life.
|The bright side being that Hazel's father is a shape shifter from the bayou and|
her mother survived an island of dinosaurs.
The performances in the film, especially from Shailene Woodley, were excellent. The story is told nearly entirely from Hazel’s perspective so the responsibility for Woodley to carry the film was mighty and she handled it immensely. Her performance comes off freakishly real and it made Hazel’s journey that much more emotional. Admittedly, I had some trouble getting into the character of Gus due to Elgort’s performance. He’s not bad at all but the way his character is introduced—with some creepy staring—sorta made me feel like he was a douchy character. As the film progresses, you see that he is quite arrogant and has a frat boy-level of cockiness and that continued to make it hard to get into him but this was an issue I had with the character and the way the character was written. Elgort’s portrayal of this arrogance was excellently done and, like Woodley, his performance was very realistic. This clash of two realistic performances was also mixed with some natural chemistry between these two actors and it really made the budding love between Hazel and Gus feel less like the over-the-top love stories we usual see in films meant for the teens and tween and more like a real, mature romance between a pair of real people. Granted, it’s a little strange that in Divergent Woodley and Elgort play siblings and now they have to play girlfriend and boyfriend but, hey, that’s the acting game. It needs to be noted that, as the story progressed, I warmed up to Gus and became quite invested with his journey and his relationship with Hazel—which is what I was supposed to be doing, so Mission Accomplished there, film!
|Guys, even if you are attracted to a pretty girl in public, don't look at them|
like this. It's creepy.
There’s a striking simplicity to The Fault in Our Stars. The film isn’t delivered in a flashy or slick manner, there’s no clever editing, no nifty camera angles or use of pop music to quickly establish atmosphere or create character cred; instead, the film is a simple story about a low-key love affair between two dying teens. The story never tries to make itself bigger than it is and it's staying at ground level and on the positive side the entire time. The only real downside to the film is the fact it has limited replay value—I can’t imagine this is one I’d own and every wanna watch again but, this aside, the film is touching and charming. Everything about the movie feels like it should be a depressing tale of a doomed love story but, instead, was a warm and beautiful tale that left me both smiling and crying at the same time. Of course, the tears were totally from the onions I was cutting at the time. I was making soup and totally not crying at the film. You know, because I’m a man and I’m not supposed to have emotions like that.
|*Sniff* Shut up, I'm still not crying.|