Movie Review #762
Directed by Josh Boone. Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber. (Book: John Green.) Produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey for Temple Hill Entertainment. Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, and Willem Dafoe. Premiered at Seattle International Film Festival on May 16, 2014. Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Fox 2000 Pictures in New York City, New York on June 2, 2014; and in wide release on June 6, 2014. Rated PG-13: thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language. Runs 125 minutes. (Alternate version: 121 minutes.)
Is it just me, or is Shailene Woodley on the path to becoming just what Molly Ringwald was for the John Hughes Era, three decades later? In the last year, she has made two films with screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber: “The Spectacular Now” and “The Fault in Our Stars” (“TFiOS”). When I watched “The Spectacular Now”, I was taken by surprise. I felt that I had seen a modern classic, and more importantly, that I’d seen a candid, poignant, and lovable drama that actually seemed to understand how teens see the world around them. It’s simply miraculous that nine months later, “TFiOS” has been released, and it evokes that exact same reaction.
Shailene Woodley plays the part of Hazel Grace Lancaster in this story. She battles cancer, and she carries around a portable oxygen tank everywhere, because her lungs “suck at being lungs.” Knowing that she has cancer has forced her to live in boredom and, though not according to Hazel herself, depression. Her mother believes that group therapy will make her a happier person. While initially she hates group therapy, it’s here that she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). Augustus’s cancer has granted him a prosthetic leg, but he’d rather look past that. He’s optimistic and clever (often in the same ways), and he encourages Hazel to live life to its fullest, rather than allowing cancer to consumer her. They fall in love “slowly, then all at once.”
Notice that I’m pulling quotes straight out of the movie, and truthfully, it’s a bit difficult not to. “TFiOS” emanates the same quirk and wit as John Green’s book of the same name (which I would read before watching). This is clear right from the start of the movie, actually, because when Hazel gives a narration, it isn’t the direct, formal narration we get in most movies. Instead, it’s casual and inviting. Screenwriters Neustadter and Weber have adapted the novel that is faithful to the novel’s style and its substance. Their script is in good hands. Like many directors, Josh Boone has constructed a merely tolerable film debut (“Stuck in Love”, from two suns ago), only to strike silver and gold with his second turn (“TFiOS”). His honest, heartfelt look at the two leading characters only makes their chemistry even greater.
This is the optimal adaptation of the John Green book. It’s often as if Green wrote and directed the entire thing, though interestingly enough, his involvement in the production amounted to a simple acknowledgement of his source material. I’m betting, though, that even if the author had written and directed, it couldn’t have been a much better movie. What I’m trying to say is that “The Fault in Our Stars” contains very little room for improvement, okay? Okay. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano