The Fault In Our Stars Review
Cancer is a rough subject, for any piece of art. It does not matter if its a movie, or a book, or a song, or a television show, or a painting or anything. Cancer is a tough subject, and it can either work for a movie or it can work against it. Thankfully, I know nobody who has cancer, and I have thankfully not been diagnosed with the hideous disease. But it is such a touchy subject that if you are going to use in a movie, you need a firm grasp of what you are trying to say. "50/50" was a comedy about cancer that came out in 2011, not just a comedy, but a slightly raunchy one at that. Somehow, the cast and crew made that movie count.
I never read the "The Fault In Our Stars" book, but I can say one thing already. Making a cliché young romance movie and having cancer as the anchor to the story is not a good way to tell a cancer story. I don't know what made the book so special, but whatever it was, it did not translate to the big screen very well. It also doesn't help that the movie features the most annoying actress of all time. How she continues to get roles is amazing to put it in nice terms. If this is how director Josh Boone adapts books to film, then I am suddenly wary of Boone making four movies worth of Stephen King's "The Stand."
The film revolves around Hazel Grace, quite possibly the most annoying name for a character, perfectly suited for the most annoying actress of her generation (aka Shailene Woodley). Hazel has thyroid cancer and at first, she plays the typical girl who is about to die. Her mother (Laura Dern) forces her to go a cancer support group for people in her cohort. There she meets Gus (Ansel Elgort), a bad boy with a bad case of cancer. They immediately fall in love with each other.
At first, I didn't think "The Fault In Our Stars" would work like other young love stories. Instead of playing the "do I like you or not" game too many of these movies play, the movie really builds a unique relationship between Gus and Hazel. Their relationship starts by Gus and Hazel giving each other a book that defines them to read. They also help another friend who has cancer get revenge on a girl who wants nothing to do with him anymore. The first half of the movie is anything but cliché, and I thought for a second that this movie was going to be different. Then about halfway through this overly-long film, the film becomes a predictable mess. It becomes just like every other young romance movie, with predictable cancer discussion after predictable cancer discussion. Just because these two characters have cancer, doesn't mean they are human in any way. I am not going to care about them just over a gimmick.
As good as Ansel Elgort is as Gus, his character is completely annoying. The way he holds a cigarette in his mouth just to feel death in his mouth, the way he always refers to Hazel by her first and middle name, it got on my nerves quick. That's also goes with saying that I feel Elgort is the most redeeming factor of the whole movie. He's the only actor who tries to make this film count, a character who really has something to say. But his character is so gimmicky that it is hard to take him seriously. And Woodley, absolutely shameless and awful work. This is not me being unable to look past my biases, she just sucks at acting. It really is that simple.
I would also warn not to get too excited that Willem Dafoe is in this. Yes, Dafoe rules and he does good work in the movie. He plays an author who Hazel holds really dear to her heart, only to meet him and find out he is nothing like she pictured. The scene is quite possibly the stupidest in the entire movie. I get the message its trying to send, but its so poorly executed and equally poorly written that the scene should have been deleted. Had the scene been deleted, the movie would have ended the same way and it would have made the ungodly length of this movie lessen.
I can't stand that this movie touts the line between being cutesy romantic while also trying to make a serious movie about death. The movie tries so hard to have it both ways that it just came off too desperate. Add already the slapdash quality of the story and the horrid performances, and "The Fault In Our Stars" becomes phony and almost too hard to watch.
FINAL GRADE: D-