‘The Fault in Our Stars’ Review

Published 2 months ago by , Updated August 10th, 2014 at 10:22 pm,

Ansel Elgort Shailene Woodley The Fault in Our Stars Movie The Fault in Our Stars Review

The Fault in Our Stars follows sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) who has fought thyroid cancer since she was thirteen. After the disease spreads to her lungs, Hazel entered an experimental study to help battle the cancer but, in spite of minor improvements to her overall comfort, she remains hooked to an oxygen tank, is easily tired, and, as a result, lives a hermitic life. Hazel fills her days with books, reality TV, and studying - until her mother (Laura Dern) pressures Hazel to join a support group for young cancer patients. Reluctant to cause her parents additional stress, Hazel agrees to attend the meetings.

The sessions are a chore – until she meets osteosarcoma survivor Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). Augustus is living cancer free, after doctors amputated his right leg, but attends the group in support of his best friend, Isaac (Nat Wolff), who is days away from an operation that will leave him blind. Following the meeting, Hazel and Augustus strike up a fast and flirty friendship but as Augustus encourages Hazel to break out of her shell, challenging her to live before it is too late, she is reminded of her biggest fear: she’s a grenade, terminally ill, and when her day comes, she wants to protect everyone from the blast - even if it means holding someone she is growing to love at arm’s length.

The Fault in Our Stars Movie Hazel Grace Shailene Woodley The Fault in Our Stars Review

Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

The Fault in Our Stars film was adapted by writing partners Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of Summer) from author John Green’s 2012 young adult novel of the same name – with Josh Boone (Stuck in Love) sitting in the director’s chair. Understandably, discerning moviegoers have become doubtful of young adult novel adaptations - following a string of hit or miss Hollywood cash grabs in the genre. That said, even though certain aspects of The Fault in Our Stars rely on teenage romance tropes, clever directing choices from Boone, challenging performances, and an uncompromising premise, elevate the final film far above its melodramatic contemporaries.

While the plot centers on a tale of star-crossed lovers, The Fault in Our Stars is in fact a surprisingly authentic and moving story of life in the shadow of death. Some viewers might be put-off by a story of teenage love but the narrative strives for much larger insight than simply following the ups and downs of a budding romance. From the opening moments, it’s clear The Fault in Our Stars seeks to be a spotlight for the truth (both the victories and the horrors) of those who have been touched, either directly or indirectly, by cancer (among other illnesses). While Hazel laments that her life isn’t normal, she provides the foundation for a more poignant tale of what it means to love and be loved.

Shailene Woodley Ansel Elgort The Fault in Our Stars The Fault in Our Stars Review

Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

Following critical and commercial success in The Descendants and Divergent, respectively, Shailene Woodley offers her sharpest performance to date. Beyond the challenge of depicting terminal illness with responsibility and authenticity, Woodley proves she can make teenage drama credible – in a way that should resonate with all viewers, regardless of age. It’s a brave performance, not because she’s once again playing a beloved book character; because the message of the movie is important - especially for women and men on the verge of adulthood. For those touched by tragedy, the struggles of Hazel (as well as her friends) will hit close to home but her actions and outlook offer a unique perspective on illness and death - one that might even provide comfort to audience members that have struggled (or will struggle) with loss.

Of course, that perspective grows out of Hazel’s encounters with Augustus and, after mostly understated roles in Carrie and Divergent, Ansel Elgort is a scene stealer in The Fault in Our Stars. The character offers a fun and exuberant juxtaposition to Hazel, often embodying the larger themes and messages of the film, without resorting to caricature or violating the movie’s hard-hitting representation of life as a sick teenager. In the young adult genre, where young men are often presented as standoffish, muscly hunks, it’s refreshing to see a male hero that expresses his love through thoughtful deeds - not fist fights and eye-rolling dialogue.

Ansel Elgort Nat Wolff Shailene Woodley The Fault in Our Stars The Fault in Our Stars Review

Nat Wolff as Isaac in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

A strong cast of supporting players join Woodley and Elgort, including film veterans Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents, Mike Birbiglia playing the leader of Hazel’s support group, as well as Willem Dafoe in the role of reclusive author, Peter van Houten. While everyone in the cast turns in a quality performance, Nat Wolff (Admission) is particularly charming as Augustus and Hazel’s friend, Isaac, a character that weaves in and out of the main storyline but adds an extra layer of insight, and comedic relief, to The Fault in Our Stars.

Skeptics might scoff at its young adult-centric romance but The Fault in Our Stars has the potential to touch moviegoers both young and old – especially those that have battled sickness or cared for a dying loved one. Fans of the book as well as uninitiated moviegoers looking for a thought-provoking character piece will find plenty to enjoy and ponder in Boone’s latest film. The Fault in Our Stars succeeds a heartfelt drama, where a pair of teenage protagonists set the stage for an ageless (and uplifting) message about human life – highlighting both its frailty and beauty.

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The Fault in Our Stars runs 125 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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25 Comments

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  1. Great review Ben. The wife and I will be checking it out tonight. The Fault in Our Stars is our favorite novel; it’s a wonderful journey filled with laughs, tears, and lessons (even for those have not directly been impacted by cancer).

    Glad to hear that the movie adaptation has done a wonderful story justice.

  2. I think I’d be blubbering like a big baby. I’ll wait for video to watch this… alone!

  3. Took the girlfriend to see it last night. We both loved the book but the movie could’ve been a little better. It was still a good movie though I will admit.

  4. Its a good film. I had trouble buying into the story. The fact the film points out at the beginning that this is real life not sugar coated. Then the relationship seems very sugar coated and very fictional. The male lead character is written to perfectly as if he isn’t human. I wanted more flaws from his as a character, while I also wanted to see the idea of her being terminally ill bomb explored, instead of brought up once and forgotten between the characters. Just to much sugar coated fantasy, I would prefer a little less fantasy and a little more real. However, it was well made and acted and very emotional.

    • I have a question. In the books, Augustus is severely flawed in that he starts with a very mythical male concept of heroism, and by the very end he learns that’s b*******. Is that at all in the movie? So many people have said he’s too perfect and I’m confused.

      • Its very loosely touched upon. the way he acts is unrealistic, making a film with such potential faulter

      • Nah. He’s not portrayed as being perfect in the film. It’s true that his flaws are handled in a more subtle fashion in the movie compared to the book, but there are clear moments where Augustus lowers his mask of perfection (and heroism) and reveals his true self (e.g. his reaction to flying, when he delivers “the news” to Hazel, the scene towards the end when he’s in the SUV.)

  5. Saw this last night, beautifully acted.. Naturally cried my eyes out

  6. Love the book and read it at night alone, think I will do the same, no prying eyes, more time and freedom to cry.

  7. Think you posted this article on the wrong site. Belongs on TweenRant.

    • Fury – You can take your comment back to SnarkRant ;) In all seriousness, as stated in the review, the movie deserves more credit than you’re giving it.

      • Couldn’t disagree more. Too long and it left out a major part of the story: what happens to Hazel. Woodley is certainly being groomed to be another Jennifer Lawrence. Teen cancer is a difficult subject but showing the couple at Anne Frank’s house was…oddly placed.

        • I’m surprised that someone who read the book would agree this review belongs on “TweenRant” – the main point of my comment was to highlight that people are dismissing the story as a romance when there’s more to it than that.

          To address some of your points. I actually felt like the Anne Frank part made sense in the context of what the movie is asserting thematically (life in the face of death). As for comparing it to the book/leaving parts out – that’s a slippery slope and not something we touch on in reviews. We’re just looking at the movie that is in front of us – because not everyone has read the book. Based on a lot of the comments in here though, it seems like a good portion of book fans liked it.

          • Cannot resist asking this question, sorry if you feel insulted, but did you cry watching the movie? Sorry again, but I’m sure to cry when I see it.

            • Loved the book, and dragged my hubby to see the movie. Cried but loved the film.

  8. By the way, I’ve never been in a theater with so many people sobbing at once.

    It’s an incredible adaptation. Shailene and Ansel were incredible, especially Shailene.

  9. Such a great adaptation of a book that I love so much. Ansel Elgort was a real standout in a cast that is so talented, he was so much fun to watch. I was a sobbing mess by the time the credits rolled but that wont stop me from seeing it again next week.

  10. Okay, who didn’t see the dude dying coming? Seriously! I’ve had bowls of cereal less predictable than this movie. Anyone who’s read a John Green book knows someone will die and it will cause “feels” for teenage girls.

    Besides that, the film’s not awful, just meh, and the dialog gets pretty stupid in some parts i.e.: the “It’s a metaphor” bit.

  11. This was a sad date movie. Thank goodness my girlfriend paid for it. At least I get to be her shoulder to cry on.
    That actor who played the dude was convincing. Woodley shined in her performance.

  12. I can’t believe no one has brought up the rating of this movie, thus movie should be rated “R” the sex scene went way too fat and the language is horrible . This is not for pre teens or early teens. I am not a prude . But the language , drinking were not necessary added nothing to the movie. Disappointed

    • Respectfully, I disagree. It actually adds quite a bit to the movie. This story serves to humanize sick (and/or dying) kids/teenagers, to show that their illness doesn’t stop them from being a real kid/teenager. They don’t become their illness; they are just people who are sick and dying just like everyone else (just a at a faster rate — some infinities are bigger than others). It deconstructs the idealistic image that society projects onto sick kids/teenagers.

      I mean this in the most respectful way possible:

      Guess what? Teenagers curse, and so do sick teenagers. Guess what else? Teenagers desire to have sex, and so do sick teenagers. I won’t address the consumption of two glasses of champagne to avoid any spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie, but I think it’s more than justified and handled responsibly by the author and filmmakers.

      Is this a movie for pre-teens? Probably not, but I believe the rating reflects that. As far as teens go, I think parents need to perform their due diligence and use their discretion to determine whether their teen is mature enough to handle the film. (I actually saw quite a few parents with their teens in my theater; hopefully the movie generated some good discussion afterward.)

    • Also, here is a great spoiler-filled Q&A written by John Green, the author of the book, where he discusses the themes and symbols of the story, and why he made specific choices while crafting the story. It can be used to facilitate dialog between teens, parents, and fans in general:

      http://johngreenbooks.com/questions-about-the-fault-in-our-stars-spoilers/

    • MelanieOsteen, you’re aware that the same happened in the book, right? The book is for teenagers, and it had practically the same content. There was profanity and cursing, Van Houten was still a drunk, and they still had sex in the book as well.

      The book is for teenagers, and the movie is as well. PG-13 is the correct rating for it.

  13. Me and my Girlfriend went to see this film it was really Great it made me cry 5 Star Film :)

  14. 4.5 out of 5 is my rating.
    I’ve seen a lot of sad movies in my time but nothing prepared me for the emotional onslaught that this movie threw at me.
    The young stars in this film gave performances well beyond their years.
    Not only did they own their roles but they were so natural with each other they were believable as if I was watching real life.
    Having lost 2 of my family members to cancer the movie hit a raw nerve and touched me in a way that no other movie has ever done.

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