Adapting a literal phenomenon like The Fault In Our Stars to the screen can be a daunting task. Fans of the book have high expectations and you better meet them or else. Well, star lovers can rest assured: director Josh Boone handles things quite well. The basic story is one that is perfectly tailored for a Lifetime TV movie. Those movies have become such a cliche that you know exactly what I mean when I put that label on it. Young girl has cancer. Of course, she falls in love. And duh, make sure you have a box of kleenex near by.
The Fault In Our Stars follows the formula to a tee, but it manages to stand out from the crowd because of its 2 fantastic leads. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace, a witty, frank teenager who has to spend her life lugging around an oxygen tank to help her breathe, but she doesn’t let her illness define her life. Woodley, who showed so much promise in The Descendents alongside George Clooney, is now stuck in the lame Divergent series, but hopefully she can fit in more roles like this in between the installments. She gives a honest, charismatic, and committed performance that supersedes the cliched situations her character is sometimes in.
Succeeding in an even tougher role is Ansel Elgort, as her love interest, Gus, or Augustus, as Hazel calls him. Even from their names, there’s a pretentiousness to the story that gets your eyes rolling. The quirkiness of the characters and situations would have worked better as written word, but in the film, it comes off as extremely corny in moments. Gus is full of ridiculous dialogue and quirks, including putting an unlit cigarette in his mouth so he still has control of the thing that could kill him. Really? But man, Elgort somehow sells it. He’s magnetic, surprising, and relaxed in the role. The two leads have a natural chemistry that you just want to keep watching.
Also deserving recognition is Laura Dern playing Hazel’s Mom. This role is so paper-thin that a strong wind would probably take her away, but Dern has such a strong presence here. She’s warm and powerful in all of her scenes. It’s comical how often the story forgets about her, especially during the sequence in Amsterdam where she just seems to spend the entire trip sitting in the hotel while the kids go have a great time.
It’s one of several plot points that’ll make you giggle. From random people applauding in Anne Frank’s house to a soundtrack full of indie ballads to accentuate emotional plot points, The Fault In Our Stars has its…yes, faults. The film doesn’t present a groundbreaking story, but because of its performances, it overcomes its many cliches to be an effective and powerful story of living life to the fullest, no matter how little time you have.