The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

  • By managing melodramatic content and by capturing seemingly genuine love, The Fault in Our Stars is heartbreaking, but also somehow uplifting.
  • For that, credit goes to four men: novelist John Green, screenwriters Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, and director Josh Boone.
  • It also goes to stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.
  • As she is sensational The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Descendents (2011), not to mention this year’s DivergentWoodley has previously established her acting acumen, which means this performance is unsurprising. Though no less impressive. She gives Hazel Grace Lancaster the requisite doses of wit, intelligence, resolve, optimism, and guilt, the last of which Woodley generally shows in side-long glances and withdrawn affect, rather than outward verbal expression. She is a gifted actor, one who continues demonstrating remarkable range.
  • All the same, Elgort steals the show from her. The director and writers only give him two scenes to directly reveal Augustus’ insecure core, scenes which he makes count with award-worthy emotion. But also doesn’t need. Because Elgort has already shown it to us throughout the rest of the film by making the character’s bravado feel like a defense mechanism, a performance, without ever making it seem that Elgort himself is acting.
  • Laura Dern (Frannie) and Willem Dafoe (Van Houten) give remarkable supporting performances, as well.
  • Moreover, director Josh Boone makes several terrific decisions, the most noticeable of which is his soundtrack. First, the music itself is beautiful, both in its sound and in the way it complements on-screen events.
  • Second, Boone only uses music as a punctuation mark to scenes or a transition between them, meaning it never overwhelms the action. He trusts the material and his actors to heighten emotion.
  • A trust that is further demonstrated by minimalist close ups, camera movements and editing cuts.
  • Still, this film adaptation is not perfect. Isaac’s (Nat Wolff, excellent) infrequent inclusions are awkward and forced, not emotionally impacting.
  • More troublingly, the writers and director do not sufficiently foreshadow the twist. They eliminate three or four of the novel’s most subtle and crucial sequences, a decision that means our reaction is less, “Well, of course,” and more, “Huh.” And then, “Oh no.”
  •  That said, The Fault in Our Stars remains a moving and powerful experience. While it may not be the best book adaptation of all time, it is a very good one.
  • Final Grade: B+

38 thoughts on “The Fault in Our Stars

  1. This movie isn’t usually in my ballpark but there’s been a number of positive reviews like yours that I might just give it a whirl when it’s out on video. I’ve been meaning to catch up on Shailene Woodley’s movies, I’ve had the Spectactular Now Dvd for a couple of weeks now that I hope to get to soon.

    • I like Woodley a lot. Probably more than any of the other actors around her age. She is impressively versatile.

      And this flick is quite good, far more than just another YA story. Like the novel, it transcends genre and has appeal to many audiences.

  2. Nice to have you back sir. Still haven’t decided if I want to make the plunge and watch this, but everything I have heard is really solid. If actors had stock, Woodley’s is high and everyone should buy.

    • Absolutely on Woodley. Major awards are in her future, I think, and when she gets some nominations, I’m guessing she becomes a mega star, sort of like Jennifer Lawrence.

      And I also think you’d like this flick. You should totally take the plunge. 🙂

    • Thank you.

      Then on this one we simply disagree. The flick’s theme is that we can find happiness no matter our circumstances, that, in other words, people are resilient. Which, I think, happens to be true the vast majority of the time, for most people. I think, in other words, that this story is quite authentic.

  3. The performances really made this spectacular. I thought everyone was great. Laura Dern was so sweet and wonderful. They should look to starting an Oscar campaign for her.

    • I will take a look.

      Obviously, I agree that Elgort was better, but I think Woodley tremendous, too. I suppose the Isaac scenes brought a bit of humor, but I still feel cheated by them (I am aware this criticism rests largely on comparison to the novel – Isaac was so much more than comic relief in the book). Here Isaac is simply underdeveloped.

  4. Still got to see this but Twitter has ruined the ending for me! Damn fools who post them and I’m a damn fool for clicking the hashtag. Glad that Woodley did an excellent job once again! She is truly something else!

    • She certainly is.

      And, honestly, knowing the ending going in will not ruin this experience. It will still be emotional, because the central character and performers are so strong. (As I’ve read the book, I knew the film’s ending, too, of course. It still brought years to my eyes on several occasions.)

      • I’d agree with that. In fact, Louie, having a premonition of what’s to come might actually make the preceding 90-ish minutes really tough. You latch on to these characters quickly. I bought the romance, hook line and sinker. That’s really rare for me, a huge cynic. 🙂

  5. The cast on this one really did do an excellent job didn’t they? At times I felt there was a real danger of it become too schmaltzy but the supporting cast did a great job of grounding the film. Especially liked Laura Dern and Willem Defoe. Great review.

  6. Terrific review man, I would venture to say your B-plus aligns with my 7 slices!!! 😀 I found there were a few tactfully used cliches in this film (the music I felt was cheesy and I was actually one person who thought the speech/text bubbles that popped up on screen were a terrible idea. . . so so corny. . .but again, that was me), but these worked. The film couldn’t escape every romantic cliche, obviously. But outside of this little nitpick, I didn’t have much to complain about. This was a real hard-hitting film.

    • I didn’t love the text bubbles either, but I give them a pass. It is hard to show text conversations on film, but to show a genuine teenage romance in the 21st century, you have to include texting. So what to do? They picked a strategy and were consistent with it, so I’ll happily accept it.

      I also agree that the songs on the soundtrack, as individual pieces of music, are corny. I’m unlikely to choose to listen to any of them when I sit down to hear some music. But, in my opinion, that’s not the point. The point is: does the sound of the music fit the film? And does the music get in the way of the actors/screenplay? I think the answer to the first question is affirmative, and the answer to the second is negative. Which means I think the soundtrack works quite well.

  7. Another solid review! This one was good, but not great. Wish they’d shown Isaac more, I think Nat Wolff was excellent in the role! Also, Elgort completely owned this whole movie.

    • Totally agreed on all points, especially on Isaac. In the book, he is an emotional driver of important moments. In the film, he’s just comic relief. I think the shift renders his inclusion haphazard and awkward.

      • It probably would have been better if we had.

        Though I say that uncertain what I would have cut to facilitate extra Isaac scenes. Maybe my issue, then, is less about wanting more and more about wanting those they included to be handled differently.

        (Agreed that Wolff is really good in the role.)

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