Movies about terminal illness, so passionate, so well done, but somehow so sad. Yet for some reason we are drawn to them like moths to a flame, often for the quality tales they spin, and the emotions they stir up. This week The Fault in Our Stars released, another movie based on, yes you guessed it a book. So naturally after coming off my latest science fiction high, it was time for me to return to my local theater and calm myself with this drama/romantic tale. What did I think? As always, please read on to find out.
For those who haven’t seen the plethora of trailers, or read the book, this movie is the story of Hazel (Shailene Woodley) a girl who suffers from cancer and the associated depression that follows. Just when everything seems lost, a charismatic man named Gus(Ansel Elgort) enters, whose positive outlook and bright spirits send them on a journey of self discovery and wonder. I know, the story sounds like all the other terminally ill stories, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. The Fault in our Stars is an incredibly passionate movie, filled to the brim with amazing scenes of beauty, wonder, and emotion.
It all starts with the characters, who at first are like yin and yang, opposite approaches to the same situation. Woodley’s portrayal of Hazel was fantastic, the dismay and depression flowing out of her so naturally, it was as if she herself was suffering from the disease. It was so refreshing to see her not playing an overly whiney, teenager as I’ve seen in her past roles, instead showing the true abilities she had beneath. Yet the character that really brought the movie to me was Gus. This man’s positivity and will were infectious, brightening up the negative energy of the situation and keeping the movie fun despite the dire outcomes that awaited. Elgort was like a low key Jesse Eisenberg, arrogant, but not as much of a jerk that makes him lovable. The characters are strong on their own, but together they evolve into a duo that breathes so much life into the movie and hooks you into the two-hour ride. Even when they are not speaking, these young actors portray their feelings in simple gestures, an eye roll here, a smirk there, that translates the thoughts going on in their minds.
Supporting the characters is a some creative dialog, that was synthesized from a variety of styles to help get the point across. At first it is nothing more than the ire filled thoughts of a cancer patient that reflects the suffering they face. Depression eventually turns into casual conversations when Gus arrives, balanced in comedy, romance, and other emotions that continue to shift as the story unfolds. What could be a laugh fest at one point can turn into a sobfest at another, but one thing that holds constant is the realism of the movie. Unlike some movies, there is no magical word, saying, or moment that erases all the hurt, but instead a realist approach to handling the cards life deals you. I for one can learn a thing or two from what this movie preached, and perhaps if you open your eyes you can see it too.
To help sell the point, the cinematography exploded with symbolism and emotion at the time of the scene. When the characters were down, the camera maximized emphasis on the face, if they were trying capture love, the scene focused on finding romantic imagery to bring out the scene. The musical score they selected only further enhanced the feelings, somehow working behind the scenes to synergistically pull at your heartstrings. You would think I would have gotten annoyed by all of this repetitive themes, but somehow they balanced all of this and kept the pace going, avoiding the cheesiness many romance movies contain in my eyes.
Of course what I consider cheesy, others find to be inspiring and beautiful. Being the robot I am, I did not cry in this movie, mostly because I knew what the ending would be well into the movie. Despite the lack of tears, I’ll admit that the movie still moved me sending my emotions on a roller coaster ride. As for the other audience members though, the water works flowed through the entire movie. What do these observations mean? It means that you can experience a variety of emotions and learn a lot of things from this movie, which can mean multiple watches of this movie, though the tale will still remain predictable. Another warning is that there are some very tough struggles in this movie, perhaps not appropriate for those with a personal connection to this story. If you’re like me though, you’ll be able to find happiness in this tale, hopefully being inspired rather than depressed.
Surprisingly The Fault In Our Stars impressed me despite the fact it is a story I’ve seen before. The balance in it impresses me the most, brought to full force with the wonderful acting the cast has to bring. Yes, it is a predictable ending, but the delivery is so solid, I can’t really dock it too much. I strongly recommend checking out this movie, hoping that you will take away something from the messages crammed in this movie. Those who have less control over their tears, are warned to bring tissues, or at least the supporting arm of a loved one to get you through the journey. My scores are down below: