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The Fault In Our Stars - Review

The Fault In Our Stars

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TEEN cancer drama The Fault In Our Stars has already proved to be a massive success in literary form so is now given the big screen treatment with predictably bittersweet results.

On the plus side, it thrives on the winning performances of it’s two young leads (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) as well as some unexpected humour. But what eventually goes against it is the need to conform to genre convention despite setting itself up as something that could subvert expectation.

When we first hear from the film’s lead, Hazel (Woodley, via voiceover) she is promising not to deliver the sugar-coated, fairytale version of her tragic tale (she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer) but rather the cold, hard truth.

But aside from the odd moment of gut-wrenching reality, Josh Boone’s film, like John Green’s novel, opts to go for feel-good coming-of-age rituals with only cursory attempts at genre subversion.

Hence, the film unfolds as Hazel meets brash fellow teen and recovering cancer sufferer Gus (Elgort) at a support group and begins to fall for the amputee’s charms.

He, too, becomes smitten and resolves to make Hazel’s remaining time on Earth special, even if that means tracking down her favourite author to Amsterdam and arranging for her to go and meet him.

The will they/won’t they elements of this particular tale are fairly obvious but what elevates The Fault In Our Stars above most films of this nature is the presence of the two lead stars.

Woodley is terrific as Hazel, building on her head-turning breakthrough role in The Descendants with a performance that combines feisty determination with anger, frustration and sadness. But Elgort is also spot on, channelling the required charisma with an underlying sensitivity and even vulnerability. These two are genuinely endearing company to be around.

There’s nice support, too, from Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents and Willem Dafoe as the author the kids are seeking to meet.

Boone’s direction is also solid for the most part, managing to balance the humour and tragedy nicely for the first three quarters of proceedings. But once the film hits the home straight, the inevitabilities begin to wrack up as much as the cliches and Boone can’t help but lay it on a little too thickly.

In doing so, he misses the trick that his film had long been threatening to pull off: finishing mid-sentence rather than spinning things out to explain (and show) everything.

Hence, what might have been a brave and smart variation on films like Dying Young and Now Is Good instead becomes something of a clone designed purely to stretch the acting chops of it’s two emerging stars while testing the tear-ducts of viewers.

But while The Fault In Our Stars is definitely affecting and even enjoyable it could also have been so much more.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 126mins
UK Release Date: June 19, 2014