These 'Stars" Have Very Bright Futures
By Kevin Thomas
I am not a fan of “romantic movies.” This is because Hollywood screenwriters usually go through the motions, having the couple meet up in some quirky way, then having them form a hastily-assembled relationship so they can have sex and earn that oh-so-coveted PG-13 to sell tickets instead of crafting a real relationship with their characters.
“The Fault in Our Stars” skips that well-worn yellow brick road, and I am happy to say that it is not only one of the best films out this summer, but one of my favorite romantic movies. I was initially skeptical about this film, given that the star was Shailene Woodley (Of “Divergent” and “Secret Life”).
Since her career began on an ABC Family series, I was quick to dismiss her. After seeing “Fault,” I possess high expectations for Ms. Woodley and hope that she will continue to impress.
She plays Hazel, a teen with cancer who is trying to have as normal a life as possible. Though she thinks them dorky, Hazel appeases her mother (Laura Dern) by attending a teen cancer support group. You know-that thing where everyone sits around and says what they have and everyone claps at the end. Hazel would much rather be living her life than attending a weekly feel-good session.
That life improves when she meets Gus (Ansel Elgort of the “Carrie” remake) at a group session. He had cancer once before, but has now beat it and is living life to the fullest. Though she is hesitant about a new relationship, Hazel slowly becomes friends with Gus, changing both of their lives forever.
This film is incredible. The actors have amazing chemistry (especially given their ages) and the relationship that develops seems extremely real, a rare treat in a movie of this genre. It has come to my attention that the screenwriters are two of the most sought-after writers, and I can now understand why.
The characters didn’t seem like characters, but actual teenagers, an anomaly in a market flooded with 30 year-olds playing teens. Though Woodley is 22, she still looks and sounds like an authentic 18-year-old. Praise should also be given to Elgort, who gives an equally honest, relatable performance.
I especially loved the film’s script, which is written with humor, warmth, and honest humanity that is sinfully absent in other films of the genre. I did not expect the lead of an ABC Family series and an actor playing a minor role in a remake would be so much fun to watch onscreen together.
The other noteworthy performances come from Nat Wolff as Gus’s best guy friend and Willem Dafoe (Of 2002’s “Spider-Man”). Wolff has finally grown out of his “Naked Brothers Band” phase and possesses a surprisingly engaging likeability and screen presence, and Dafoe gives his best performance since “Spider-Man.” I am now interested to see Dafoe’s other works from the past.
The film also succeeds at being a tearjerker, something I didn’t expect. Most romantic dramas attempt to go for “tearjerker” status by turning sentimental at the end, and this one does for one scene, but it’s the writing and emotion given by the actors that earn it that status. I am not a big crier, but I was fighting back small tears near the end. Word of Advice: Bring a tissue box.
The final ingredient to this masterpiece is its use of music. Every teen drama film or TV show uses music to express the feelings of characters or to set up the tone of a scene or sequence, but this film uses it to an effect that puts most teen shows (which often use music appropriately) to shame. If a soundtrack is released for this film, I would highly recommend it.
All in all, “The Fault in Our Stars” is the most romantic film of the summer and one of the most romantic films I have ever seen, earning it a place on my “Favorite romantic films list” with “Titanic,” “Ghost”, and “Ever After”. Like the other films on this list, “The Fault in Our Stars” also serves as a perfect date movie. Guys, I know it looks like a chick flick, but your girlfriend will be crying into your shoulder for comfort.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, Some sexuality, and brief strong language (I’m not a fan of strong language, but its use was one of the most appropriate I’ve ever seen in a movie)