Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars

One sick love story.  The tagline for the Fault in Our Stars seems more apt for a zombie rom-com or horror movie about a patient who falls for their doctor and tries to kill them.  But instead, the interesting phrase describes the film that has taken hearts and tissue boxes by storm.

Based on the outstanding YA novel by John Green, the Fault in Our Stars tells the love story of two teenagers dealing with cancer.  The elegance of this story is that we get a story about cancer where cancer isn’t the main character.  When someone gets sick, their illness becomes the defining aspect of their lives.  But we forget about who the person is outside of the disease.

The Fault in Our Stars gives us the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a young girl living with cancer.  Played by Shailene Woodley, Hazel lives every day having trouble breathing and spending most of her time with her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell).  Her mother urges her to attend a support group for youth with cancer to make friends.  One chance run in on the way to a meeting introduces the dreamy Augustus Waters, played by Ansel Elgort.

tfios-300x149The two become friends but Augustus feels more.  The only problem is that nasty cancer.  It’s hard to find love when you know one day you’re going to die and leave people behind.  But Augustus is darn persistent.

The cinematography of the film is beautiful.  Since so much texting between Hazel and Gus occurs in the book, the director created word bubbles with different fonts to see their texts.  Which I thought was absolutely adorable and a great way not to cut stuff out.  The movie also features a trip to Amsterdam during which we get to see the phenomenal architecture of a stunning city.

The casting was wonderful and Woodley and Elgort shine as the leads.  A much different path for the two stars compared to Divergent where they play siblings.  Both do very well capturing the complicated nature of being a teenager dealing with a very adult tragedy.  Nat Wolff plays Isaac, a fellow group attendee who provides amazing laughs and depths as a youth who loses his eyes to cancer.  Both Hazel and Gus idolize a book written by Peter Van Houten and get a chance to visit him.  Van Houten is brought to life by Willem Dafoe who shines as the damaged writer.  Lastly, comedian Mike Birbiglia is the cancer support group leader and he adds nicely to the cast.

The soundtrack is wonderful in its diversity.  Switching between uplifting, playful tracks to dark and melancholy, the music fits the YA movie perfectly.  Featuring Birdy, Ed Sheeran, and Charli XCX, the soundtrack takes you on the emotional journey experienced as two kids deal with the struggles of cancer and attempting to find love.

As a reader, I had read the book before I knew it was being made into a movie.  And as a reader, I was hesitant (as I am of any book to movie adaptation) to see what the finished product was.  Director Josh Boone honored the text well and I can easily say it is the best book to movie adaptation I’ve ever seen.  I encourage everyone to see this film.  If only to appreciate the life you have before you.

The Fault in Our Stars premieres on HBO Saturday, February 21st at 8:00pm ET.

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