Book-to-film adaptations often inspire phrases like “But I didn’t read the book,” “I should read the book first,” or the dreaded, “It’s not going to be as good as the book.”
If you have uttered one of those phrases, I suggest checking all your worries at the door before you watch the movie version of John Green’s best selling novel The Fault In Our Stars. In fact, TFioS shows us that it is possible to translate an incredible story into an equally brilliant film.
The Fault in Our Stars follows 17-year-old Hazel Grace as she falls in love with 18-year-old Augustus Waters. Unfortunately, their love story’s tragic flaw or, to borrow a term from the book, hamartia is they are/were cancer patients: she can’t breathe without her oxygen tank thanks to stage four thyroid cancer and he lost a leg because of osteosarcoma. But in this story, these characters are more than their illness; they are snarky, intelligent, and somewhat cynical as they identify “cancer perks” and the “side-effects of cancer.” They fall in love like regular teenagers, they go on an adventure to Amsterdam together in search of their favourite author and they worry about making those around them happy.
While not as impressive as Woodley, Elgort does Hazel’s great love of her life, Gus, justice as he makes even the most pompous of lines funny and charming.
John Green’s YA novel on love, coping with illness and the intention of good fiction was brought to life by stellar direction from director John Boone and exceptional performances by its young cast, a well-paced script from 500 Days of Summer scribes Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, and most notably its stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace and her Divergent cast mate Ansel Elgort as Augustus.
While the story stays faithful to the novel, its success lies in the chemistry between Elgort’s Augustus and Woodley’s Hazel. With every look, you can feel how their love for each other consumes them and makes them feel both alive and invincible. Together, they make falling in love with Augustus, Hazel and their story inevitable.
Carrying the brunt of the emotional load, Woodley delivers her usual impressive performance and her work was probably made easy thanks to Ansel’s own acting abilities. While not as impressive as Woodley, Elgort does Hazel’s great love of her life, Gus, justice as he makes even the most pompous of lines funny and charming. In fact, Elgort embodies Augustus; the way he stands, his vulnerability, his strength, and his all-consuming love for Hazel. Nothing in Elgort’s performance felt forced. Ansel Elgort is Augustus Waters.
It’s also safe to say there are no weak links in the cast. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents help paint a picture of a family coping with illness with a little forced but well-meaning positivity; Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) is their foil with his portrayal Hazel’s favourite author, the alcoholic and professional asshole Peter van Houten; and Nat Wolff provides some comic relief as the couple’s blind mutual friend Isaac.
What makes TFioS unique, amongst other things, is that Hazel and Augustus spend more time falling in love than brooding over their respective ailments, setting their story apart from other cancer stories. The film is tragically beautiful with the same quirks, hilarities and sense of adventure as the book.
The film is also well paced; the story picks up almost directly with Hazel and Augustus and important events from the novel were melded into one another to create a seamless storyline. In addition, the editing lends itself to creating a youthful film by showing well-timed text messages and emails on-screen. It also made it a point to put Gus and Hazel’s love story above all else. In fact, the tone of the film is what was the most faithful to the book.
The Fault in Our Stars is about family, true love, friendship, selflessness, knowing when you can be a little bit selfish and being thankful for small infinities. This film will greatly satisfy its fans, but can also appeal to anyone who enjoys an honest love story and a good cryfest.