The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

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I went into this film only knowing 3 things: The synopsis, the IMDB rating and the Rotten Tomatoes rating.  Little did I realise, the only other men in the theatre were probably dragged there by their girlfriends, and the pre-movie trailers were a romantic comedy, a romantic comedy, and a Dance-Fight movie (those 1s were the “fighting” is replaced with dancing).  It was official, I might be watching a teen romantic comedy.  Alone.  How creepy.  I even grew a little nervous.  Worried that I was going to be watching something like Twilight, with nobody to laugh and cringe with in the dialogue and acting department.  Judging from this perspective, you will probably think I don’t like Rom Coms and Teen movies.  The reality is I can.  If the film is really good, it doesn’t matter what genre it is.  So what can I say about The Fault In Our Stars?  Well…

The Fault In Our Stars is a film based on a novel by John Green, and is about 2 teenagers; 17 year old Hazel (played by Shailene Woodley) and 18 year old Augustus (played by Ansel Elgort) who meet and grow to like each other while attending a church support group.  Why are they meeting here?  Because like everybody else in the group, they both have cancer.  Hazel had it originally in her thyroid but metastasised into her lungs, while Augustus had osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) that was on remission, but it cost him 1 of his legs.  Before departing from their 1st meeting, the sarcastic Hazel and the Teenage Hans Solo Augustus agree to read each other’s favourite novels.  Augustus lends Hazel a book based on a video game with zombies in it.  While Hazel lends him An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten, a book about a girl with cancer, and whose main character, Hazel heavily identifies with.  Annoyed by the book ending in mid-sentence, and finding out that van Houten became a hermit in Amsterdam after the book’s release; Augustus tracks down van Houten’s assistant, who eventually tells him that in order to know what really happened in the book’s ending, he would have to come to Amsterdam and speak to Peter himself.  Hazel had already used her wish from the make-a-wish foundation by going to Disney World when she was 13.  But Augustus still had his wish, and from here we see a journey that brings them deeper and closer together.

This is 1 of the most beautiful Teen Movies I’ve ever seen, if not the most beautiful.  Some might say the movie sugar-coats the reality of their situation. But I think it’s simply to create a lighter tone in order to make it easier to watch and even enjoy (this is a 12-rated film here after all). There is a purity to it, and despite the situation that is on display, our 2 main characters are no different to any other teenager.  They’re both well developed and likeable, though if it’s based on a book, I suppose those characteristics are often included.  In terms of humour, I didn’t get very much out of this film.  There was plenty of it, and it made me smile, but didn’t make me laugh.  Maybe I’ve matured and don’t find this that funny, or this is a new humour and only speaks to kids who were born in the late ’90s, or I’ve simply heard it all before.  Speaking of humour, there is a scene were they are watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer together, a show that aged well because of how funny it was while still being well written.  The greatest strengths of this movie however are in its messages, themes and layers, which are many.  We see what Hazel’s parents go through, and come to understand their situation.  We see how other characters try to cope with what’s going on, and the different ways in which they approach it.  And there’s some very good wisdom in it that may speak to a lot of people regardless of their age and stage.  Especially teenagers and anybody who knows someone who has cancer (probably a bit like Juno when it came to teen pregnancy…although I laughed more at Juno).

The music was lovely and set the mood well, incorporating modern songs ranging from British singer songwriters like Ed Sheeran, Jake Bugg, Birdy, and Tom Odell,  to dublin rock band Kordaline, to American singer-songwriters to electronica and other rock bands from America, France and sweden…and includes Swedish Hip Hop.  The cinematography played it rather safe, but told the visual story well.  Don’t expect anything Kubrick in nature.  The acting was mostly very good, and the characters are well written with the humanity being evident.  The story is a bit cliche, and to some, reading the synopsis or seeing the trailer would suggest that we already know what happens at the end (or do we?).

Would I recommend this?  Yes, see it at least once because it’s a very good film.  Is it tragic?  Of course it is!  But is it unwatchable because of that acknowledgment?  Far from it.  Much like life itself, there will be problems, set-backs and tragedy.  But there will also be beauty, laughter and joy in the midst of it.  It also has a message about “being somebody special”, but I’m not going to spoil that.  You’ll have to see it to hear it.  Also Willem Dafoe has a small but very important role, making him possibly the most recognisable name in the cast.  When with time, consider the possibility of spending it on this film

****1/2 out of 5

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