The Fault in Our Stars seemed pretty much doomed from the start. Bearing that in mind, it’s a remarkably enjoyable movie.
Based on the 2012 book which was a smash hit with critics, audiences and publishers, the film follows narrator Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year-old cancer patient who is at the stage where she could go downhill at any minute. Early in the story, Lancaster meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who at 18 is recovering from osteosarcoma, and the two begin to fall in love. The film centers around their attempt to pack a life time of experience into their numbered days.
The book version was written by John Green, and it’s his poetry and electricity that make the book go. His words pop off the page like Dickens, and it never would have translated to film anyway because it’s primarily narration. It’s the kind of thing that won’t translate to film at all, and becomes boring and obvious when people attempt to do it — think of Divergent and the animated Dark Knight Returns as examples of movies that, at various points, jump the shark to fit in a cool line that was simply narrated in the book. With the beating heart of the source material unable to make the transition, the movie was already at a significant handicap.
However, (500) Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber did themselves a big favor when they avoided that pitfall and only adapted the story and the third-person scenes that movies are built on. There’s still narration, but it’s not invasive. The base story proves itself more than powerful enough to overcome a lack of John Green.
Woodley flips her personal script, carrying the movie admirably when she needs to. Elgort and surprise cast member Willem Dafoe are also strong. The movie’s twist middle-ending is still powerful, even if you know what’s going to happen.
The film as a whole is about what one would expect from a female-skewing teen romance. There are extremely frequent breaks for music. The male lead has great pecs and a six-pack despite only having one leg. There’s tears and dramatic confessions and applause after the power couple kisses.
It’s definitely generic, but powerful enough to satisfy viewers who aren’t fans of the genre. It definitely doesn’t accomplish what the book did as far as trope inversion, and hopefully will not replace the book in popular culture.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. In the Divergent series, Woodley and Elgort play siblings. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.