Grab the hankies.
The Fault in Our Stars is one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages.
And I know that all of the sobbing 13 year-old girls in the theater with me would agree.
But really. The long-awaited adaptation of John Green’s widely beloved novel is an incredibly moving, witty, heartwarming, and heart-wrenching exploration of life, love, and loss. The Fault in Our Stars runs the emotional gauntlet, and works on almost every level.
Teenager Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) only goes to her local cancer support group to appease her mother. But she soon finds a young man with a similar wit and love of the unconventional in the form of Gus (Ansel Elgort), a recovering cancer patient. The two immediately connect and form a bond that helps them both deal with the bleak circumstances life has dropped in their laps.
I never really was on the whole Shailene Woodley train. Yeah, she was an okay actress and everything, but what was the big deal?
… Then I saw The Fault in Our Stars.
Woodley carries this entire emotional journey on her shoulders with such grace that it’s hard not to fall in love and root for this young cancer patient struggling with falling in love while also navigating death’s doorstep. This young woman will own an Oscar within the decade. (Sidenote: it’s also refreshing to see a female-centered indie film going toe-to-toe with all the big boys at the box office this summer. Keep it up Hollywood).
It’s easy for many to be cynical towards a movie like Fault, with its “teen romance” and its obvious tearjerker qualities… I try not to exaggerate any given movie’s great aspects, but if you aren’t at least a little bit affected by this movie, then I’m not sure what sort of story will ever get to you. Why be so cynical in the face of such a funny, heartbreaking, and inspiring love story?
People say movies like Fault are manipulative… But is it really manipulative if it earns all its emotional beats?
The characters here are authentic and we care deeply for Hazel and Gus by the time they have to actually face the crap we knew was coming all along. Any sappiness The Fault in Our Stars exhibits is well-earned, and those who melt into blubbering balls of sniffles in the theater need not feel like fools.
If The Fault in Our Stars doesn’t make you at least contemplate your own life and inspire you to cling to and treasure the people you care for most even more, then you might need to do some soul-searching. This movie makes you laugh, makes you reflect, and makes you FEEL. And that’s more than you can ever ask for from most movies.
I won’t be surprised if/when this film becomes a generational touchstone with the likes of The Notebook, with its unconventional love story full of natural humor, warmth, and a tender take on a very bleak subject. Hazel’s journey serves an optimistic reminder to make the most of your life, even when you’re dying… And aren’t we all?
+ Shailene Woodley’s subtle yet powerful performance
+ The chemistry between Woodley and Elgort
+ All the sappiness isn’t forced, it’s earned
+ Great to see a indie film done with such high production value
+ Deftly transitions from scenes of humor to scenes of drama
+ Reflective and poignant
+ Moves its audience in an authentic way
The Fault in Our Stars is an emotional roller coaster with a subtly powerful performance from Shailene Woodley and a tenderhearted approach to its very dark subject. It’s full of humor, warmth, wit, drama, and plenty of tears. Viewers may feel cynical towards its optimistic and tear-jerking story line, but it’s hard not to fall for The Fault in Our Stars when its emotional moments never feel forced and it so beautifully reminds its audience to reflect and treasure the most important things in life.
The Fault in Our Stars is rated PG-13 for “some sexuality and brief strong language.” The two main characters engage in a sexual encounter, and even though no nudity is shown, the scene gets pretty charged and everything but underwear is removed. Language is minimal, but strong when used. Young children are also not recommended due to the film’s dark subject material of cancer and death.
© Matt Tory, 2014.