WIth cannula tubes in her nose and a portable oxygen tank by her side, we meet Hazel, a teen battling cancer for more than three years. To appease her parents she engages in a support group for teens facing various forms of cancer. It’s there that she encounters Augustus Waters. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS follows their friendship and sharp wit as they bond over the disease, and their shared obsession with a book titled An Imperial Affliction.
Based on the novel of the same name, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is a lovely adaptation of the book. The screenplay streamlines Hazel’s story while capturing the tale’s essence and spirit. Even though this picture covers heavy subject matter, it is not weighed down; rather it is full of heart and humor. Don’t get me wrong, it would be wise to take tissues with you as there are many moments that will cause you to tear up, but there are just as many moments that will have you smiling throughout the picture.
With smart casting choices, the actors breathe life into their characters. Shailene Woodley is slowly becoming a favorite actor of mine. Catching my eye in THE DESCENDANTS and taking charge in DIVERGENT, it makes me happy to see her in a role showcasing another character to add to her acting portfolio. Woodley’s portrayal of Hazel are raw and genuine. The wide array of emotions she conveys are subtle and effective. Without giving anything away, there is a moment where she is sobbing in her bed that felt completely honest.
Another standout performance came from the seasoned actor Laura Dern, as Hazel’s mother, Frannie. More than once I found myself welling up with tears as her character managed to pull at my heartstrings. From scenes in the hospital with a young Hazel to other tender moments, Dern manages to balance the role of optimistic yet concerned mother perfectly. Relative newcomer, Ansel Elgort (who also starred in DIVERGENT with Woodley) is a welcome addition to this cast. His delivery and timing was quite impressive and there was a sweet chemistry between him and Woodley. There were a few emotional moments where it felt like he was forcing the waterworks, but overall he did a nice job as Hazel’s ‘special friend’ Augustus. One random character that stood out was the cheesy support group leader played by comedian Mike Birbiglia. After seeing his most recent standup routine, I had written off Birbiglia and was reluctant to enjoy his performance, but was pleasantly surprised with his take on Patrick.
As a lot of technology based communication takes place, I enjoyed the clever manner in which the text messages were displayed as tiny chalk drawing notes and how the emails were shown to the side of the screen. It was a fun way to participate in Hazel’s correspondence without the messages solely being read aloud. I was not a fan of the flash forward or flashback sequences that bookend this picture. Though brief, the replay is not necessary to help the picture progress or help the viewer understand what is about to happen or what has already occurred.
Fans of this book will not be disappointed as they see their beloved tale transformed from pages to the silver screen. Nor is it necessary to read this book prior to watching THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Either way, you will witness a sweet story unfold.