“Fault in Our Stars” Shines Bright for YA Readers
Even for those not ingrained in young adult lit, the lightning success of The Fault in Our Stars is an easy process. Like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, 17-year-old Hazel is a survivor. But this is no larger-than-life fantasy epic. The Fault in Our Stars treads on many relatable teenage themes, many quite tragic.
Diagnosed with cancer for the past four years, Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is a ticking time-bomb. She’s well-aware that she’s going to die much sooner than later. But that doesn’t mean she’s not going down without a fight. Her parents force her to attend a support group, much to her dismay. She reluctantly does, but it’s there where she becomes friends with another cancer survivor (Ansel Elgort).
When Hazel crosses paths with Gus, The Fault in Our Stars finds its footing in layering the touching content set by John Green’s 2012 novel. The two grow inseparable and their chemistry is spot-on. Hazel and Gus lean on each other equally, courageously living every day as their last.
Onscreen, Woodley and Elgort are a dynamic duo with no reason to outshine the other. It shouldn’t come as no surprise that they click so well, working previously in Divergent from a few months ago. The twist here is it may seem awkward for that brother-sister pair in that film to be lovers here.
Now technically, the narrative still belongs to Hazel rather than Gus. Woodley is simply the better of the two and gives a heart-breaking performance taking audiences all over the place. There’s no doubt that she’s one of the best up-and-comers in such a long time. The Fault in Our Stars follows The Descendants and The Spectacular Now that greatly benefit from her cinematic charisma.
The screenplay from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is largely invested with both characters. One surely expects that from these two writers who brought us (500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now. Fault needs solid performances from both actors. They have no problems delivering the heavy content at all. Elgort has less opportunity to prove himself, but still shines.
That doesn’t mean that Fault doesn’t suffer from its fair share of issues. First and foremost, Fault is oddly paced, dragging its feet at times. Well over two hours, director Josh Boone tries to do Green’s novel justice. While that’s respectable to the die-hard fans of the book, trudging through the middle act is a tad laboring. An overlong run time is certainly not this film’s friend.
Before she dies, Hazel wants to find closure from a book she’s been reading. Left hanging for answers, Hazel and Gus seek out the author in Amsterdam. The subplot is massive, emotional and as a result, a lengthy aside to detour the final destination. There’s no way to not include it in the film. It boils down to being a double-edged sword. It distracts from the harsh truths these two are dealing with. But it also opens Pandora’s box with an onslaught on cynicism.
Despite sounding like The Fault in Our Stars is bogged down in a depressing story, the film is ironically uplifting. It’s not hard getting behind Hazel and Gus. Along the way, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and everything in between. The Fault in Our Stars is a touching roller coaster without all the unnecessary bells and whistles.
The Fault in Our Stars will please fans of the book and newcomers alike. And if you haven’t had the chance to read the Green novel, this film gives all the reason to do so.