What surely may be this decade’s “The Notebook.”
Review (with Spoilers)
I read The Fault in Our Stars years ago without any idea of it becoming as big as it would. It was simply a recommended book on Amazon and I needed something to read to keep myself from going insane due to school work. So I read chapter after chapter, finding myself so in love, and envious, of the relationship Augustus and Hazel had; hoping despite all odds there would be a happy ending amongst the infinities.
Characters & Story
Somewhere in the world, there was a girl named Hazel (Shailene Woodley) who spent her time reading a book, people watching and drowning her days in television. Then her world is shaken by this pest named Augustus (Ansel Elgort). Like her cancer, he came uninvited and infected her being, finding his way in first through her eyes and mind before eventually working himself into her heart. She tries to reject his pursuit, knowing that ultimately things wouldn’t end well, but after the denial that someone could find her beautiful, the short term anger which came from thinking he smokes cigarettes, came the bargaining. She would let herself be happy, and let him try his best to do so.
This lasts for quite some time and then depression kicks in. For as happy as they are, it doesn’t take away from the fact both are cancer stricken. But there is an acceptance that they both will eventually die, but with a finite amount of time to do an infinite amount of things, why waste any moment thinking about that which is out of their control when the opportunity of love has entered their lives? Something once thought of to maybe not be an option.
One of the most difficult things when it comes to book adaptations is getting the characters right. Woodley as Hazel I admit didn’t seem to fit at first, but with me seeing more and more of Woodley’s work since The Secret life of the American Teenager, it is easy to see why she is quickly becoming the go-to girl for films like these. As I said in Divergent, the abilities of Woodley to portray a simple character and make her into something with a heartbeat is astounding. For while arguably none of her characters seem that complex on paper, or when introduced, she pushes past that and helps us see the hope and genuine desire in each character to live a fulfilling life, making her casting as Hazel impeccable. Woodley is able to express Hazel’s downtrodden nature without the shedding of tears and as jaded as Hazel is, you can see her vulnerable to the idea of being happy when Gus enters her life, and the hope he brings you can see it in every hug, kiss, and tear being like a shot of happiness she thought no make a wish foundation could ever fulfill.
And thankfully, while like any adaptation some things are cut or reduced, the story keeps the big moments when it comes to Gus’ and Hazel’s relationship which will surely put a smile on your face. For while they are a bit overly cutesy, it does remind you of the time when the concept of love wasn’t tainted by past relationships or heartbreak, and it seemed like all there could be is possibilities.
However, as I watched the film I must say that sharing the experience in a room filled with squealing young ladies really does ruin the experience. Though I could also say that it might have to do with the casting as Elgort as well. As with any film adaptation, there is the issue of what you envisioned characters to be versus what you will get with the film. And, for me, Elgort as Gus was much more arrogant and douche-like than I pictured Gus. Also, he does not have the same ability Woodley has to take a character and bring them to life. Arguably, I felt he was more so trying to charm the girls in the audience than Hazel in an effort to make himself, Elgort that is, into a heartthrob.
Which isn’t to say as you got used to Elgort you can’t be seduced by his charm, but I still had such a difficult time seeing this young man as Gus. Which leads to perhaps the biggest issue, which maybe because of me not agreeing with the casting of Elgort, and that is that despite how sad certain moments in the movie are, I didn’t find myself crying surprisingly. I got teary eyed when Woodley did her thing, but for everyone else it just was this weird recognition that, yes, I am witnessing a sad moment, but the majority of the actors never fully got me to that place where I couldn’t hold back my emotions.
Overall: Worth Seeing
While I have small qualms over things like casting which surely kept me from fully being immersed, though knowing what was to happen surely didn’t help, this isn’t to say this isn’t a good movie. To me, The Fault in Our Stars has all the makings of a genuine classic for this decade, and perhaps generation. You have your usual male lead willing to do and say anything to make his love interest smile, and said love interest is a witty, smart, and sweet young woman who needs to hear, feel, and experience all the guy has to offer. Making for a film which inspires you, could make you a bit envious, and furthers your thoughts on the ideal life partner and relationship. For while Hazel and Gus’ time is finite, seeing all they are willing to do for each other in these finite moments, it can potentially leave you speechless and balling in tears.