The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
written by Scott Neustadtar, Michael H. Weber, and John Green
Directed by Josh Boone
Starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort
Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.
As a highly anticipated film, I had certain expectations of this movie although I was careful not to put my expectations too high. The Fault in Our Stars delivered. I was not disappointed. In fact, I think I need to see it again.
First and foremost, for those die hard fans out there the film does a great job of following the book. Is it just me or are filmmakers finally understanding that fan viewers really like to see the story they read visually portrayed? With that though does come some downfalls. I loved the fact that the story swayed very little from the book. But because it did so, I think the film lost some of its magic. It was less of an emotional journey as in the book readers were in the first person narrative of Hazel Grace, in the film not as much. Not just that, but there were definitely some ‘pleaser lines’ if you will. That is, the well-adored quotes from the book are loud and clear throughout the film, almost as if picking out the popular items from the novel and using them as items in the storyline to help sell it to the audience. It felt somewhat disconnected to me, like the story existed to tell these insights. I understand the audience will love it, but I didn’t think these insights were delivered with the personality the book intended. I was surprised that the title line, the quote that identifies the reasoning behind the popular title, was left out. Unless I just missed it?
As for the casting, Woodley and Elgort delivered the personalities of Hazel and Augustus perfectly. Woodley had the cool and distant demeanor and Elgort did a particularly good job with his facial expressions, which were slight but delivered quite the blow. These two are going to become headlining actors after their performance in Divergent and now The Fault in Our Stars. Personally, I think both Woodley and Elgort were more suited to the roles of Hazel and Augustus than they were meant for Tris and Caleb in Divergent.
During the film I was most looking forward to the confrontation between Peter Van Houten and Hazel and Gus. This scene was very good! Even though Peter wasn’t quite as I expected him, William DeFoe portrayed the actor with ideas I actually liked better than I originally imagined him. The scene followed as expected, but again, lost its touch of magic as we were outside Hazel’s thoughts and certain things, such as Peter’s assistant and the Swedish rap music, seemed underdeveloped in comparison to the novel.
The scene I was most impressed with actually followed the author confrontation scene. When Hazel, Gus, and Lidewij went to Anne Frank’s house. Whoa! the symbolism here and Hazel’s stubbornness were more dominant than what I remembered in the book. At one point the symbolism became a touch overdone, but I suppose the whole thing suited the taste of the film, following the major ideals and metaphor’s of the book. Hazel’s comparison to Anne Frank and their two stories, two struggles met in that house. I was impressed with the interpretations in this scene.
Even though I continue to say the film had less magic than the book, I understand that novel and film are two completely different mediums with two completely different ways of presenting a story. With each Book to Box Office Review I write, there is a certain difficulty comparing the two devices. While I was grateful for the filmmakers to keep the story so close to its original script, John Green’s book, I admit I wished to see a touch more interpretation. It’s one thing to make the characters move and say the same things as they do in the novel, but another to make the audience feel the same way about them. Josh Boone really did a superb job directing this film, but as usual, the novel holds more emotional impact than the film was able to deliver. Of course, I still shed a tear or two. It is an emotional story after all.
As for the elements of film, I’m much less educated to this aspect. However, I was constantly impressed with the costumes of all the characters. Isaac’s character probably surprised me the most, but it was a pleasant surprise as I realized I hadn’t spent too much time creating Isaac as a character while I read. Hazel’s loose, somewhat baggy, clothes suited a cancer-ridden frame of a sick child. She wore simple tees in basic, not-too-loud colors that suited her ‘whatever’, careful-not-to-get-too-close to anyone attitude. And Augustus wore that brown, leather jacket like a hero. It suited his athletic build – a shadow to his life before cancer, but it also reminded me of a fighter pilot, a motorcyclist, or some other action figure that perfectly suited Augustus’s consistent desire for heroism.
While I know little about the mechanics of film, other than operating a few digital projectors at work, I really enjoyed the way this film was shot. The scenes didn’t hover around the characters, but made them part of a larger picture. The images were sometimes blurred and bright – beautiful, simple, yet artistic. I don’t always notice the cinematography (I hope that is the right word), but the way The Fault in Our Stars was filmed seemed another artistic filter for the story directly. It is how Hazel and Gus would have imagined it, I believe.
Also, the soundtrack was. amazing. There are probably about thirty seconds of film that I entirely missed (is that Ray Lamontagne? It is, I’m sure of it. Oooh! I haven’t heard this song before – and so on). Again, the soundtrack was another artistic element that persuaded the film to be a touch more of John Green’s beloved novel.
The Fault in Our Stars is a film that will please audiences whether they are John Green fans, only fans of The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley or Elgort fans, and even everyone else. It is emotional, but happy as well. You shouldn’t leave sad and you won’t cry uncontrollably so its probably okay for a date night movie. For those seeing it after reading the book, don’t pick it apart at the seams. It does follow the book nicely. You won’t be disappointed, but as a novel is a larger investment into character and plot development, don’t be too critical if you feel like that same spark isn’t in the film. It’s okay. Actually, it’s good.
I give The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Josh Boone a four out of five stars.
Read the book review here
Also on IMDB
seen the film? Looking forward to it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!