Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: "The Fault in Our Stars" a Love Story for All Times (Shailene Film Fest)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
DIRECTOR:  Josh Boone
WRITERS:  Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (based on the novel by John Green)
PRODUCERS:  Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen
EDITOR:  Robb Sullivan
COMPOSERS:  Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott


Starring:  Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek, Ana Dela Cruz, David Whelan, Milica Govich, and Mike Birbiglia

The Fault in Our Stars is a 2014 teen drama and romance from director Josh Boone.  The film is based on the 2012 novel, The Fault in Our Stars, written by author John Green.  The Fault in Our Stars the movie focuses on the unconventional romance of two teenagers battling cancer.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) has terminal thyroid cancer.  Intelligent and sarcastic, she also has no friends.  Believing her to be depressed, Hazel's mother, Frannie (Laura Dern), encourages her daughter to join a cancer patients' support group for teens.  There, Hazel meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an 18-year-old former basketball player and amputee who lost his right leg to bone cancer.  The teens' unconventional way of looking at life and their illnesses bond them, and a romance blooms, even with the specter of death looming over them.

A movie about children dying young, especially of cancer, would be expected to be difficult to watch.  However, The Fault in Our Stars is beautiful and poignant without being heartbreaking or heart-wrenching.  Perhaps, the film succeeds because it is a tale of star-crossed love about two people who happen to have cancer, rather than being a love story about cancer patients.

Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber's screenplay adapts the novel by focusing on love in bloom.  Of course, that comes at the cost of the supporting characters and also the nuances of the relationships between Hazel and Augustus and their respective parents.  The screenplay treats the parents as visitors, appendages rather than as the mothers and fathers who are obviously, intensely involved in the lives of their critically ill children.  Still, Neustadter and Weber capture the freshness, spark, and enchantment of young love, while making the fact that the young lovers must confront finality seem like a magical and romantic thing rather than a dreadful thing.

With this movie, Shailene Woodley gives her best performance in a leading role to date.  She is good from start to finish, and, as usual, she takes female film characters and makes them feel like real girls and young women.  In the film narrative, it takes a while for Ansel Elgort to warm as Augustus, but he eventually makes the boy with the big personality a good fit for the acerbic Hazel.  Director Josh Boone does excellent work by letting his leads grow into the spaces that their characters inhabit.  [Woodley and Elgort also played siblings in the 2014 film, Divergent.]

The Fault in Our Stars became a worldwide hit film.  Why?  This Romeo and Juliet-like film is one of those classic movie love stories in which love triumphs over darkness, with a magic that dispels whatever gloom tries to come over the audience.  Also, this film's musical score, composed by Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott (two members of the indie rock band, Bright Eyes), seems beautiful and uplifting even when it plays over sad moments.  The Fault in Our Stars is like no other recent romantic movie, but it is exceptional and exceptionally good.

8 of 10

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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