“The Fault in Our Stars” searches for delicate balance with heavy material
During the first few seconds of “The Fault in Our Stars”, you hear the voice of protagonist Hazel and her view on the world, life, and death. This ominous beginning is a gentle reminder of things to come. Cancer is not a thing that can easily be tampered with, and director Josh Boone is able to transport the audience into a world of hospitals, funerals, and unhappy endings all while captivating the audience with a love story that could easily define a generation.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by John Green, the movie does not shy away from its source material. The movie tells the story of Hazel (Shailene Woodley) who is forced to attend a support group for teens with cancer, where she meets and eventually forges a friendship with Augustus (Ansel Elgort). Throughout the film, Hazel learns the real meaning of life and death.
An exact book-to-film adaptation is unheard of, but “The Fault in Our Stars” manages to keep the content fresh and interesting, with a few minor changes here and there. At times, popular quotes from the book such as “The world is not a wish-granting factory” came across as somewhat hokey and awkward, but nonetheless fans of the book will be pleased that screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber made an effort to try and preserve one of the things readers most loved about the novel.
Near-perfect casting helped launch the movie into a tale of hope instead of one filled with dread. Woodley and Elgort lead an extraordinary cast and seem to personify their characters with the utmost respect, while still keeping in mind the delicate subject matter that they are dealing with. The PG-13 rating is perfectly safe — anything lower would have diluted the story and the real subject matter would not have been able to come through.
Unfortunately, non-readers may have a harder time emotionally connecting to the story than those who did read the book. The plot line may seem a bit stretched out, the grand gestures that Augustus pulls throughout the story can seem unnecessary, and all the talk of cancer seem like overkill. While some of it may not seem essential to the storyline, and often times it is not, it all gives the viewers a break from the depressing aura that pervades the film for its duration.
The subject matter that the novel discusses and deals with is not an easy thing to get around. Sure, the filmmakers could have tried to avoid the subject of cancer all together, but that would have taken away the basic essence of the story and viewers would just be left with the cliché boy-meets-girl love story. Book enthusiasts would not have been happy, and non-readers would have been questioning why this story, out of all the other ones out there, was special. For that, the producers of “The Fault in Our Stars” deserve props. It takes a lot of confidence to produce a film that seems to appeal to a limited audience, and the most important story of love and loss is something that everyone can relate with.