THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
*1/2 (out of 5)
June 6, 2014
Shailene Woodley as HAZEL
Ansel Elgort as GUS
Nat Wolff as ISAAC
Laura Dern as FRANNIE
Sam Trammell as MICHAEL
Willem Dafoe as VAN HOUTEN
Lotte Verbeek as LIDEWIJ
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Josh Boone
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
To call “The Fault in Our Stars” a bona fide tear jerker is a bit dishonest to me. Will most people find themselves crying at some point in the film? Probably. However, this is not necessarily because it’s an effective movie. Instead, it’s a shameless piece of emotional manipulation that hammers away at the audience with as many different scenarios as possible.
Yes, the audience can be made to cry, but what “The Fault in Our Stars” really does is prove that cheap parlor tricks can achieve this. And that’s exactly what “The Fault in Our Stars” is: a cheap parlor trick disguised as a wondrous love story.
Spoiler alert: It’s not a wondrous love story. It’s as much a romance and misery-porn fantasy as a flirtatious wink from a stripper shaking her rump on a stage.
Like the now-popular breed of Nicholas Sparks-inspired drivel, “The Fault in Our Stars” uses cancer as a MacGuffin to bring the audience with it. Instead of showing a realistic and honest portrayal of this deadly disease, the film exploits it for it’s personal impact on the audience. You see, cancer is so widespread that I doubt anyone over the age of three hasn’t been touched by it in some way. Whether it’s a loved one who died or a friend you know going through treatment, cancer is an easy enemy to put in a movie. It’s the Nazis of the medical world, something that everyone can relate to negatively.
(If you think the Nazis comment was a bit of a stretch, wait until you see the movie, in which the bluntly unsubtle parallel is drawn between those very historical figures and the struggle that our young lovers must go through. It’s kind of sickening, actually.)
“The Fault in Our Stars” follows a 19-year-old girl named Hazel (Shailene Woodley), who has been dealing with lung cancer since she was thirteen. Now, as she has seemingly given up on life and relationships, she starts to fall in love with Gus (Ansel Elgort), a teenager in remission whom she met at a support group. Together, they find their young love challenged by their own end-of-life scenarios.
What’s even more offensive to anyone who has ever been personally touched by cancer is how cavalier this film is with it’s own imagery. Cancer is a terrible thing, and this movie plays around with it like a child playing dress-up. There’s no indication of the terrible effects cancer actually has on people. It goes beyond the absurdity of Ali MacGraw looking adorable moments before her death in the groundbreaking 1970 film “Love Story.” This presents cancer as an angst-filled challenge that deserves Bella Swan mopiness without showing the loss of dignity, physical appearance, and overall ability to function.
I know I’m being hard on this movie, which is really doing nothing more than trying to give its audience a cathartic moment. However, these are core problems with the film at the story and concept level that make it terrible.
On the more superficial level, “The Fault in Our Stars” is poorly written with terrible characterization. Sure, Woodley does her best to redeem her acting from the quite dreadful “Divergent” earlier this spring. However, Ansel Elgort phones in his own performance. Not that he had anything to really work with, of course. His character is woefully underwritten, existing for no more purpose than to dote over Hazel to the point of being almost robotic. There’s no depth to him or any complexity below his smug grin.
While it’ll be adored by fans and it’s getting what I consider inexplicably decent reviews, I found this film to be a chore to watch. It’s painfully predictable with oodles of cringe-worthy dialogue, overly convenient symbolism, and story cliches that would be too much for a TV movie in the 80s. For a cynical SOB like me, I found myself rolling my eyes far more than I did wiping them.