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Reel Review | The Fault in Our Stars

Arnav posted on 12th July

By Arnav Nanduri

Genre: Drama/Romance

Runtime: 126 mins

Director: Josh Boone

Screenplay: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, based on the book by John Green

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe

Those not too heavily invested in the adolescent romance genre may react to the title with scepticism, at the very least. ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ when heard for the first time sounds like 9th grade poetry or a Taylor Swift Album title. While fans of John Green's novel would need no encouragement to BookTheirShow, the average KFC and Michael Bay aficionado wouldn’t really consider a film that they already seem to know too much about.

At the very least, this is one of those brownie point winning date movies that you can actually enjoy.

Now I'm not saying that all girls like romance or all guys don’t; I like romance as much as I like gore, and if you can mix the two {like say, Warm Bodies, though it's barely gore}, that’s awesome. But if you consider yourself someone with really selective taste, or you’ve been complaining about someone trying to drag you to a shitty movie, or you just plain hate romance {you soulless bas****!}, give it a shot. You might just find something you quite like. It’s got a scene with Willem Dafoe wasted and grooving to Swedish hip hop. I mean really, need I say more?

The Story – Hazel, a girl diagnosed with thyroid cancer that soon spread to her lungs, is constantly accompanied by an oxygen tank and a sense of dwindling time. Worried by her depression, her parents urge her to attend a cancer support group where she meets Gus, an 18 year old charmer who sports a cigarette between his teeth {which he never lights}, a titanium leg, and an idiosyncratic sense of humour. Hazel and Gus are in many ways more alive than most, due to their constant awareness of the fragility of their existences, and the film effortlessly captures this sense of immediacy. The film's determination to exist in the present echoes the sentiments of its lead characters, who among a love for books, witty banter, and all things unconventional, share the fear of cancer, in remission, looming close behind.

The screenplay is deftly handled by the talented offbeat-romance writing duo of Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber  {500 Days Of Summer, The Spectacular Now}, and fans of the novel will not be disappointed by the adaptation. Director Josh Boone recognizes the importance of holding back and letting the actors carry the story. Towards the end however, with the emotional manipulation at its peak, the movie drifts dangerously close to Karan Johar-esque territory; all that’s missing are neon signs saying “CRY! CRY! CRY!” {I mean there's three goddamn monologues in a row!}. However, for the most part, the film tackles the subject and story quite sensitively, and dodges the usual pitfalls and clichés that accompany the genre with a quirky sense of humour and reasonable amount of restraint.

The acting is the biggest strength of the film. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, fresh from their sibling pairing in the recent Divergent, are in top form. Hazel lights up in Gus’s presence, and his infectious charm grows on you steadily like a… well… a tumour {kidding!}. Other noteworthy performances are Laura Dern {fans of David Lynch/Jurassic Park will enjoy watching her} as Hazel's aggressively upbeat mother, Nat Wolff as the oddball-slowly-going-blind friend Isaac, and the always entertaining Willem Dafoe in a cameo as the couple's favourite author.

The film is largely faithful to the novel, probably due to the author's involvement in production. Despite a rather unremarkable and forgettable soundtrack, which serves more as transition music than anything else, the film creates genuinely moving and some downright hilarious moments, held together by a strong script and some solid performances. You will probably cry, so prepare yourself accordingly!

Rating: *** {3 out of 4 Stars}

If you liked this, you should definitely check out…

The Spectacular Now {2013}| Director: James Ponsoldt; Writers: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber; Cast: Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller

This, in my opinion, is the writing duo's best work. Another film that thrives on the ridiculously awesome chemistry between its actors, this pairs Shailene Woodley with Miles Teller {mini Vince Vaughn} in an incredibly mature and fantastically directed coming of age/adolescent romance. Watch out for the long uninterrupted takes of dialogue where the chemistry is just hypnotic.