Ever since The Notebook’s crowd pleasing fame, there’s been a line of Nicholas Sparks adaptations brought to the big screen. Because these films have hit home runs at the box office, it wasn’t surprising to see other romantic book-to-film conversions follow suit.
The trailer for The Fault in Our Stars gave off that cover of being “just another one of those romantic movies”. Movie goers who have read and fallen in love with John Green’s novel were looking forward to Josh Boone’s movie to see if it stayed faithful to the original print, but for outsiders (including me), all we had were vague ingredients of guaranteed yet timeworn charm.
That’s not to say I went in to The Fault in Our Stars with a pre-conceived opinion. As a critic, I went in with openness and a want to see Boone’s film set cinematic romances on a new course – he does.
Don’t get me wrong, the film has its generic moments. Luckily, Boone and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber get all these crimps out of the movie’s system early on.
Hazel (played by Shailene Woodley) informs the audience that her story isn’t like the ones we see in the movies. But, as soon as Gus (played by Ansel Elgort) wanders into the movie, we see that their relationship is one that’s fairly familiar.
Hazel is apprehensive and would rather focus on the downside of a situation than the silver lining. According to Hazel, these are symptoms to when one is living with the type of cancer she has. Gus, who has taken care of most of his health battles, is all-smiles and can’t help but fall for Hazel every time he sets eyes on her. His lighthearted outlook eventually brings Hazel on a wave of affirmation as she realizes how important her connection to Gus really is.
The first third of The Fault in Our Stars is real conventional. At the same time, Josh Boone’s film does nothing wrong. No one is painted in a way that feels outrageous and every character has been written and acted out with authenticity. The unsung hero for me would be Laura Dern, who often gets thrown the role of someone who’s either uptight or high strung. Dern plays the role of Hazel’s down-to-earth mother impeccably and applies the right amount of weight with each line.
Also, don’t take Mike Birbiglia’s minor role as a support group leader as well as Nat Wolff’s comic relief for granted either. Each of those actors are able to make their presences memorable and funny given their limited time on screen.
The headliners of The Fault in Our Stars are rightfully Woodley and Elgort who work splendidly with each other. The chemistry between them and their capability to beam through happiness and turmoil is a pleasure to watch, even when they’re handed predictable lines in more common material.
The Fault in Our Stars really takes off when complications arise. The heartbreaking and honest screenplay gives Boone the opportunity to make his characters deeper, and gives the actors more to grasp. It’s a film that constantly finds prominent resonance with each scene.
Those lines and situations you may have been able to envision get to be more surprising with such significance, that Boone’s portrayal reaches inspiring heights whilst hitting all the right notes without a stumble.
By the final scenes that bookend the film, I was touched. The Fault in Our Stars makes a mature and harmonious transition from being “just another one of those romantic movies” to a human drama that’s quite remarkable. Generic in spots, sure. But, the film’s remarkable trip to its endgame is anything but.