REVIEW: The Fault in Our Stars

5 06 2014

Quite often nowadays, I carry a small notepad with me when I go to see movies.  Unfortunately, I often find myself writing my review mentally as I watch the film, and I hate letting the perfect phrase slip out of my mind to never be recovered again.  I usually jot down enough phrases to fill a small page and can usually tease out the basic structure of my review.

With “The Fault in Our Stars,” however, I found that I had only written one small observation.  It was not some particularly insightful comment but merely a note of a particularly well-employed song by M83  (click to listen, but I won’t spoil the name for those yet to see the film) with the word “YES” written in all caps next to it.  I could say the same word, more or less, for the whole movie.

Those who found themselves moved by John Green’s poignant novel about a romance between two teenagers that want to be identified by something other than their cancer diagnoses will be pleased by this adaptation.  The script, nimbly adapted by the writers behind “(500) Days of Summer,” keeps the feel of the story and characters carefully in tact while also streamlining them to better suit the medium of film.  In some ways, the movie is actually an improved narrative as it excises any moment that doesn’t directly advance the relationship between the two main characters.

TFIOS

And thanks to the top-notch performances of Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as Hazel and Gus, respectively, my connection to the characters grew by leaps and bounds.  That’s not just because it’s easier to sympathize with a face and a voice than it is with a collection of letters, either.  They bring their disease-stricken characters to soulful life and become believable mouthpieces for the often pretentious phrases that Green puts in their mouths.  While there is still a slight pseudo-intellectual ring to the dialogue in “The Fault in Our Stars,” the words feel more earned on the screen than on the page.

It goes without saying, too, that any film involving cancer will have its tough emotional moments.  Director Josh Boone deftly handles the tonal shifts between Hazel and Gus’ sweet romance, their idiosyncratic escapades with fellow cancer patient Isaac (a scene-stealing Nat Wolff), and all three of their battles with illness.  Much of the gentle ebb and flow of “The Fault in Our Stars” is built in by Green, but it’s a testament to Boone’s direction that he can make the movie feel breezily watchable even when it wades into heavy emotional territory.  He hits the sweet spot in these key moments, neither indulging maudlin sensibilities nor robbing them of their gravity.

I’m sure if I wanted to do so, I could go back and nitpick at “The Fault in Our Stars” more to find some areas of improvement.  But to be honest, it does say something about a movie when the voice of the critic in my head goes silent and my heart takes over.  B+3stars


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