"The Fault of Our Stars"

STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe

GRADE: A-


In “Steel Magnolias,” Julia Roberts’ character tells her mother, “I would rather have 30 minutes of ‘wonderful’ than a lifetime of nothing special.”

The adaptation of John Green’s novel, “The Fault of Our Stars,” takes that notion to heart and steals ours in the process.

The film opens with Shailene Woodley’s character telling the audience that she would love to tell us that everything ends happily ever after in this love story, but that “It’s just not the truth, sorry …”

Comparisons to Nicholas Spark’s “A Walk to Remember” are already being thrown around, but that’s an insult to everyone involved here, especially the superior performances of Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

“Depression isn’t a side effect of cancer; it’s a side effect of dying,” Hazel (Woodley) explains as her doctors and mother (Laura Dern) encourage her to attend group meetings for other cancer-ridden teenagers.

Hazel has accepted the fact that she will never lead a normal life or outlive her parents, and she has found peace in that.

Then she meets Augustus Waters (Elgort), who puts a cigarette between his lips but never lights it; he says it’s a reminder of denying the power to something that could kill you.

Their friendship is immediate and, while Gus is minus one leg, he is whole heart and doesn’t hide his affections.

“I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once”.

Woodley, much like Jennifer Lawrence, started her film career on a very strong note with an award-winning performance in “The Descendants” opposite George Clooney.

“The Spectacular Now” was another impressive gear for the 22-year-old actress. Her first real mainstream film was “Hunger Games” carbon copy “Divergent,” which was the first time Woodley’s acting career was called into question.

“The Fault of Our Stars” is only her fourth film to be released. She already has amassed a global following because of her down-to-earth personality and character qualities that speak volumes to young impressionables.

Woodley and Elgort play brother and sister in “Divergent,” and after his performance here, I won’t be the only one explaining how his small role in the action flick is underutilized. His charisma during the dinner scene, the smile, the eyes and how we believe everything he is saying is the highlight of the entire film.

“The Fault of Our Stars” isn’t about cancer or dying, it’s a wake-up call for anyone watching these two teens begging for more time on this Earth. It’s a humbling, self-reflective attitude adjustment more than anything.

The script examines the tension between Hazel and her parents, never more so than the scene where Dern says, “being a mother is the greatest thing I will ever do,” and Hazel replying “that is my greatest fear.” 

Honesty with characters and the situations they find themselves in becomes one of the film’s greatest assets.

Sure, it will make you cry, but it also might touch your heart and make you leave the theater a more grateful, better person.

Final thought: This is the type of film that can change your outlook on life if you let it.

 

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. More reviews are available at texasartfilm.com.

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