The Fault in Our Stars

Screen International, June 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Fault in Our Stars


Dir: Josh Boone. US. 2014. 126mins

Director Josh Boone's adaptation of John Green's bestselling novel about two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love, The Fault In Our Stars is engagingly plotted and anchored by rich characterisations -- a swollen tearjerker that confirms the star presence of Shailene Woodley.

Other films of Woodley's have and will make more money, but it's well-modulated work in movies like this and last year's The Spectacular Now that confirm her intelligence and canny instincts.

Opening wide Stateside on June 6, in about 300 fewer cinemas than Warner Bros.' Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault In Our Stars arrives powered by strong name recognition of the source material and robust ticket presales. Positive peer review and critical notices alike should help drive solid box office business, particularly among under-30 audiences, potentially deep into the eight-figure range, while Woodley's rising star should help cement continued ancillary value.

Indiana teenager Hazel Lancaster (Woodley) has for three or four years been dealing with a terminal cancer that leaves her lungs weak and prone to filling up with fluid. She has a good relationship with her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell), even if their doting sometimes drives her stir-crazy. At a youth group meeting, Hazel meets cute with the rakish Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort, who in a slightly weird twist plays Woodley's brother in Divergent and its now-filming sequel).

Augustus, who's there accompanying his friend Isaac (Nat Wolff), lost one leg just below the knee to cancer, cutting short a promising high school basketball career. After Hazel shares with Augustus her love of a unique novel about the struggle with disease, An Imperial Affliction, he tries, and eventually succeeds, in arranging for a trip to Amsterdam to meet its visit reclusive author, Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe, in a nice supporting turn). Unfortunately, the reality of their conditions threatens Hazel and Augustus' future together.

Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who in addition to co-writing the breakout hit (500) Days of Summer also proved that they know their way around an adaptation with The Spectacular Now, remain remarkably faithful in their modification of The Fault in Our Stars, jettisoning a few extraneous supporting characters but successfully juggling the source material's disparate tones.

There's a dollop of self-referentiality and an acerbic wit that belies the staid conventions of "cancer cinema" (in addition to some peer banter with Isaac, Hazel's dad pops the balloon of his daughter's self-pity in one scene by joking that they've been thinking about dropping her off at an orphanage), but The Fault in Our Stars also locates deeper feelings via some pointed speechifying about the depth of love and remembrance by a few versus many, and a stirring sequence in which the three friends share eulogies. …

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