I did not enjoy John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The narration was precocious and cloying, the dialogue simply ridiculous, and any attempts at pathos were laughable; a novel collectively written by the people behind those wretched Upworthy headlines. I still have it, because it wasn’t even worth the energy it would have taken to sell it back.
Thankfully, Josh Boone’s adaptation is not quite as horrible. It trades mountains of burning trash for some of the most color-by-numbers direction I’ve ever seen. In that sense, it’s a major improvement on the source material, but a polished turd nevertheless smells just as rotten.
[Editor’s Note: Check the bottom of this review for a second opinion from a writer who did enjoy this film’s source material.]
The Fault in Our Stars
Director: Josh Boone
Release Date: 6/6/2014
The Fault in Our Stars is a movie about cancer-ridden teenagers who fall in love. Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley, doing a fine job with some awful dialogue (the same could be said of her in Divergent)) meets one Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) during a support group meeting, and is instantly smitten. From there, the duo fall into a romance, packed to the odious brim with the kind of indie-kitsch you would expect from a movie where a youth puts cigarettes in his mouth, purposefully does not light them, refers to this act as a metaphor, and is not immediately ridiculed by everyone within earshot.
Both Hazel and Gus are perfectly crafted human beings — even worse, they seem aware of it. The singular likable character in the film is Isaac, a blind cancer survivor who only just manages to dodge my ire because he’s not really a character. Isaac’s character arc flat-out ends within two scenes, leaving him to spout one-liners for the rest of the duration.
Ansel Elgort’s Gus simultaneously revels in his own majesty, while still letting his inner dork out now and then. If there is one person who will escape this farce unscathed, it will be him. Although this is likely a result of Augustus’ more cringe-worthy moments having been left on the cutting room floor, Elgort still does an alright job with the role. He still looks like he would complain about the friend-zone, but that’s really not his fault.
The Fault in Our Stars has an odd problem with tone — though thankfully more complex than your usual tone problems. The movie’s opening moments suggest an almost Edgar Wright-esque style of humor, with quick cuts and a startling awareness of the frame as a humor device. Of course, the jokes don’t land, but it’s an admirable effort nonetheless.
However, this stylistic aping is quickly tossed aside for the remainder of the movie, instead turning into every other movie out there. It becomes so incredibly generic, I’m having trouble recalling any particular images from the movie, except for the scene in Amsterdam’s famous Anne Frank house. That scene feels like a film student’s sophomore year project, right down to the overwrought symbolism. This scene essentially takes one of the most recognizable symbols of the horrors wrought by the Holocaust, and uses it to frame a kiss. I would call it despicable, but it’s a fairly crucial scene in the book.
Since I am strapped for much of anything of interest regarding this film, I would normally turn to the supporting cast, but even that eludes me. Willem Dafoe is in the film, playing an alcoholic hermit who just happened to have written Hazel’s favorite book, and hot damn that man looked tired. Dafoe is a ticket-seller for me, and to see him essentially sleepwalk through a potentially captivating role is nothing short of disappointment.
The core problem with The Fault in Our Stars is simple: it is an adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars. Its source material is worthless as entertainment, to be used only in the event of a slowly dying campfire. Any problems with the screenplay can be laid at the book’s feet, absolving director Josh Boone of the guilt associated with the now-infamous “metaphor” exchange. What cannot be excused, however, is the workmanlike direction. There is not a thing about The Fault in Our Stars that is visually remarkable, and in a visual medium, that is perhaps its most damning flaw.
Sean Walsh: My younger sister, Taylor, has Crohn’s disease, which is a disease I know little about (whenever my mom would tell me the horrific things my sister had to endure I’d phase out), but what I do know is that it’s terrible. Not necessarily ‘cancer terrible,’ but still pretty horrible. She read The Fault in Our Stars and related tremendously to the main character. Due in part to my knack for screening out all the horrible stuff she lives with for my own selfish reasons, I felt that reading the book would be a great way to help relate to her and her illness better. I read it and I found the frequency I was tearing up increased exponentially the further I got into the book.
Naturally, I was excited about the movie, and I was lucky enough to have not only Taylor but our sister Lindsey home (both live in Boston most of the time) to see The Fault in Our Stars on opening night. The movie itself was a solid adaptation (leaving out only a few key moments that I could think of), very well acted (Willam Dafoe was especially delightful), and tugged the heartstrings just like I thought it would (the last act of the movie, I found myself surrounded by sobbing fifteen-year-olds). It’s uncomfortable subject matter, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that was able to relate better to an unwell loved one a little better. As far as film adaptations go, The Fault in Our Stars is certainly one of the best in recent history. 80 – Great