John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” is a touching, funny, intelligent and wildly popular young adult novel. The recently released screen adaptation does complete justice to the book.
No, the movie isn’t quite as good as the novel — there are issues with pacing and acting — but it is extremely faithful to its source material (Green was on set for most of the production), and it won’t leave many dry eyes in the theater.
A romance between two teenage cancer patients doesn’t sound like the recipe for a hit, or a lot of fun, but “The Fault in Our Stars” maintains a good sense of humor most of the way and provides some truly three-dimensional characters to engage the audience.
Shailene Woodley (“Divergent”) stars as Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old with terminal cancer who has to carry a portable oxygen tank wherever she goes. Hazel is far too acquainted with her own mortality and accepts what life has given her — though she certainly isn’t happy about it.
Forced by her parents to attend a cancer support group (hilariously helmed by comedian Mike Birbiglia), Hazel meets Augustus (Gus) Waters, an upbeat cancer survivor who lost a leg in his battle.
Played by Woodley’s “Divergent” brother Ansel Elgort, Gus takes an immediate shining toward the flustered Hazel, and a slow-burning romance is born.
The film is funny and tragic and romantic, and Woodley nails the role of Hazel, who yearns for love but considers herself a hand grenade that will eventually destroy all of those around her.
Elgort, unfortunately, isn’t in her class as a performer. He’s tall and good-looking, with a killer smile, but he seems awkward and unnatural at times.
Willem Dafoe adds some heft to the film as Peter Van Houten, a reclusive writer who has written a book that Hazel is obsessed with, which eventually shifts the story all the way to Amsterdam.
Given the thankless job of worrying mom, Laura Dern manages to rise above formula and adds some genuine tenderness.
“A Fault in Our Stars” is practically perfect for the first half. It slows down a little in the second act, but still manages to generate emotion and tears without resorting to too much melodrama.
Both readers and non-readers should leave the theater satisfied.
Rental Recommendation: “Say Anything” is still the champion of the teen romance genre. Grade: A.
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"The Fault in Our Stars"
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe.
Rated: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language).
Running time: 125 minutes.