If the new releaseThe Fault In Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, could talk, it would tell you that it unashamedly intends to play on your most maudlin emotions and will use all of the film clichés about death and dying to do so, BUT if a good cry does you good, then you’ll love this film.
I agree with the film—if it could talk!
Two teenagers with cancer meet at a support group, one with an attitude and one with—well, another attitude! They both are coping with their terminal illnesses within their own understandings about life and death. One of my favorite scenes and a scene that really demonstrates the quality of the actors is their first meeting at the support group meeting when Gus is just looking and smiling at Hazel and she is trying first to ignore him, then warn him off—both of them speaking volumes without words.
Such a script demands a wide range of emotions from both Woodley and Elgort. Woodley does a remarkable job as the terminal teen, mildly depressed and mildly bitter about her fate. Ansel Elgort’s performance is equally believable—but only when he is in his relatively idealistic mode; he is less convincing with his dark side.
With no more information than I have given you, you can probably finish the rest of the plot with at least 90% accuracy, that is, the story is quite predictable. So what makes the film worth seeing?
Here is why I can be positive about the film—as long as you know you are going to need your tissues!
Hazel and Augustus each have very real questions about death and dying for which they hope to discover an answer before they die.
Hazel Grace wants to know if the lives of her loved ones will be ruined by her death? She is afraid her mother will lose her motherhood, that when she dies they will lose their purpose in life because all she knows of them is that they have spent all of her life focused on her and her illness.
Augustus wants to leave this life having made an impact, being remembered forever, leaving his mark on the world! But what if he doesn’t? What if he sees the end before he has time to live remarkably.
The drama of the film is not about whether they live or die, but whether they find the answers to their questions, whether they are able to find not only love but peace and a measure of understanding.
I hate the title and I hate the way religion is portrayed in the film. If you are a Christian, then you will also hate the portrayal of the “heart of Jesus” support group which is a caricature of the worst of pastoral care in the name of Jesus. The film would have been a better film with more realistic and sympathetic people of faith.
With regard to the title The Fault Is Our Stars, there is a disconnect for me between the title and the film script. Perhaps the title came from the book’s author or the publisher and is appropriate for the book, but the prevailing philosophy in the film is optimistic, not fatalistic, one of hope for something other than oblivion.
Finally, don’t take young teenagers or pre-teens to this film; they will leave thinking it is all about love. And they will remember the obligatory sex scene as much more important than it is.