The Bock’s Office: ‘Fault in Our Stars’ is a bright look at a dark topic
June 12, 2014
If you go
“The Fault in Our Stars,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 126 minutes
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff and Laura Dern
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Surrounded by blockbusters of every kind, "The Fault in Our Stars" may not be the kind of film you're used to in the summertime cinema. But if you're looking for a thrill of a different kind, and you're stocked up on Kleenex products, it's one that should be on your list.
Indianapolis teenager Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) has grown used to disappointment. After all, you don't live with thyroid cancer during your childhood and have your lungs destroyed as a result without being faced with the lesson that life isn't always fair.
With little going on for her beyond gulping down medications and having an oxygen tank permanently by her side, Hazel's main socializing comes during a support group for young cancer patients, which she believes to be a waste of her limited time. Her cynicism in these meetings clashes with that of cancer survivor Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), whose lust for life first seems pointless to Hazel, but soon his spirit begins to rub off on her.
Gus is quick to profess his feelings for her, but she refuses to consider how her condition would affect a boyfriend, already seeing how fragile her parents (Laura Dern, Sam Trammell) are at the idea of losing her. Even so, the more their "just friends" status continues, the more they are drawn together in spite of the possibility of death.
Even when she's brutally sarcastic and sometimes just plain mean, Woodley is never unappealing as Hazel, unwaveringly honest about her affliction with little tolerance for people who handle her with kid gloves. Admit it, there is a thin line between keeping a positive attitude on a person's behalf and patronizing them until they hate you.
Elgort is great as the guy who "gets" her viewpoint yet still manages to draw her out of her shell. With his easygoing nature about his prosthetic leg and quirks like keeping unlit cigarettes between his lips — you only give it the power to kill you if light it — it would be easy to tag him as a male version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, but he's also dealing with a lot on his life journey, namely comforting a friend (Nat Wolff) whose own cancer has left him blind, as well as attempting to figure out Hazel's recommended reading, a book which offers no closure and in Gus's mind necessitates a trip to meet the author (Willem Dafoe) and demand some answers.
Any movie dealing with The Big C is going to get you choked up along the way somewhere, even if it's not actually that good of a story. That's in no way the case in this screen version of John Green's young adult novel, which, unlike many of its label, truly treats those reading and watching as if they're at a stage beyond adolescence.
How many movies have we seen about sick kids who are at peace with their mortality that ultimately fell flat? It's the anger, the fear, the defense mechanisms and every other kind of hurdle that leads to acceptance that makes these accounts matter.
And, when you factor in the kind of left turn that this narrative takes, it's all you can do to keep from grabbing the tissues. You know it's going to be tragic, but when you fall in love with these characters and the way they fall in love, that's when you know you have something special, with kudos going to sophomore director Josh Boone for his sense of flair and letting every twinkling light shine.
With a title that references something as profound as "Julius Caesar," "The Fault in Our Stars" manages to be astute and cool while still tearing your heart up no matter how much you may resist. You may not cry a lot at the movies this summer, but at least cry over something worthwhile.