Saturday, 30 April 2016
Movie Review: The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
In Indianapolis, teenager Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a cancer survivor who made a miraculous recovery from the edge of death. She now lives day to day with her defective lungs requiring continuous breathing through tubes connected an ever-present portable oxygen tank. Her parents Frannie (Laura Dern) and Michael (Sam Trammell) encourage her to join a support group where she meets the hunky Augustus "Gus" Waters (Ansel Elgort), and a romance blossoms between them.
Gus has an artificial leg as a result of his own previous bout with cancer. Hazel introduces him to her favourite book An Imperial Affliction by the author Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe), now a recluse living in Holland. Gus helps Hazel connect with van Houten, who invites her to drop in on him and discuss the book should she ever be in Amsterdam. Despite Hazel's frail health, the relationship with Gus becomes ever more serious and soon they are joined by Frannie for a trip to Amsterdam, where complications await.
Boone makes the best of the material, directing with restraint and avoiding most of the obvious cliches, except for a jaw-droppingly obvious travelogue montage of Amsterdam and a clumsy side-trip to Anne Frank's house where romance awkwardly erupts in the attic. He is helped enormously by Shailene Woodley, who does shine as Hazel and carries the film through all its patches, never overselling the tough survivor elements and displaying enough warmth as a believably precocious teenager. Ansel Elgort is not as convincing, Willem Dafoe pulls his performance from the scorched drawer, and Laura Dern is relegated to worried but nevertheless reasonably cool mom.
The theme of life and love carrying on and emerging from the wreckage of horrid disease is predictably uplifting, and the film carries its message on its sleeve: it's better to experience the full joys of life despite the inevitable moments of despair than to surrender to emotional numbness in anticipation of the end.
The Fault In Our Stars is efficient to a fault. It delivers on all its calculated promises with admirable quality, and does little else.
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