We, as a culture, almost seem to get off on tragedy. Seven Pounds is about a father who feels responsible for the death of his family, so he finds deserving transplant patients and then commits suicide so they can live with his organs. My Sister’s Keeper is about suing your family for emancipation because they want to give away your kidney to your sick sister. The Notebook is about a love that is eventually destroyed by Alzheimer’s. There are many others, and now we have another tale about the woes of cancer in The Fault In Our Stars. Sure, the other movies I listed are fantastic, but just how many sad movies can we attach ourselves to before it becomes trite?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw The Fault In Our Stars. I’ve been trying to avoid movie marketing lately because I found walking into a movie blind was a more enjoyable way to watch them. I knew it was about cancer and I assumed, from the posters, it was about a young adult relationship. I heard some praise, but these types of movies usually get high praise because they’re some of the few to actually make you feel something. What The Fault In Our Stars does is take what those other movies did so well and tell an emotionally gripping story that hits on a whole range of emotions.
When I mentioned I was seeing The Fault In Our Stars to a coworker, they responded saying they don’t like romantic comedies. Considering all I knew at the time was about the cancer plot, I had no idea how they reached the romcom conclusion. What I found was a film that reminded me of Shaun of the Dead. What made Shaun of the Dead so effective was using humor as a way to relate to the characters better, so when it became a serious zombie movie in the final act you were fully invested. The Fault In Our Stars uses humor in the same manor and is equally effective at it.
This isn’t just a sad story about teenagers with cancer. This is a heartwarming romance about finding solace in someone who cares when you need it the most. The relationship between Shailene Woodley’s Hazel and Ansel Elgort’s Augustus is the core of the movie. They’re not just tools to express tragedy or romance, they’re conveyed as real people attempting to deal with the hand they were dealt. It also has a fantastic appearance by Willem Dafoe to prove yet another point, that our heroes are people too and not these fantasies in our head.
This also happened to be the first performance of Shailene Woodley’s that I’ve seen, and I am impressed by the girl who was going to be Mary Jane that one time in that mediocre movie. The raw emotion she brings to the screen really does make the film. Her on screen relationship with Augustus is one of the most natural that I’ve seen. Any of the elements could make a movie like this, but The Fault In Our Stars brilliance comes from its effortless blend of these elements.
The Fault In Our Stars takes tragedy and uses it to to demonstrate how incredible love can be and just how beautiful and magical the world we live in truly is. It isn’t the first, nor will it be the last to do so, but it is certainly one of the best. It’s not just the deft handling of the very sensitive topic of cancer, but how the film manages to eloquently make several points for young people to live by. Often films like these run into the cliched and trite conclusions we all expect, and while I can’t say The Fault In Our Stars ignores all of them, the story it does tell is so touching and honest that it doesn’t matter. Laugh, love, cry and feel hope, go see The Fault in our Stars.
In Theaters: June 6, 2014
Runtime: 125 min
Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Shailene Woodly, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff
Genre: Drama, Romance
Studio: Temple Hill Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Official Site: http://thefaultinourstarsmovie.com/