Review: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

The Fault in Our Stars
Directed by: Josh Boone
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Nat Wolff.
Based on: the novel of the same name by John Green
Genre: Drama / Romance
Released: June 6 2014 (USA) June 19 2014 (UK) by 20th Century Fox
Running time: 126 mins (2 hr, 6 mins)
Rated: PG-13 (USA) 12 (UK)
Viewed at: Cinema

IMDb | View Trailer

Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.

Want to know what I thought of the book? Click here for my review!

After reading the book, I wasn’t actually too sure if I actually wanted to see the film version of The Fault in Our Stars thanks to nearly everyone on Tumblr (well, at least on my dash) pretty much mildly ripping the film to shreds before it had even been released. So, after a bit of thinking and realising that I shouldn’t let Tumblr dictate what I like, I booked my ticket and off I went to the cinema. Having read the book beforehand, I knew what I was getting myself into, but this adaptation still had a pretty big effect on me.

The story of TFiOS is basically the same as the book, which is the story of teens Hazel (who has terminal lung cancer), and Augustus (who had osteoscaroma, and is now an amputee) and the romance that they develop after meeting at a cancer support group. When I say that the story is the same, I mean that it follows the book almost to the exact words. The only two things that were completely removed (as far as I can remember) are Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn, and Gus’s former girlfriend Caroline aren’t mentioned, and the fact that neither of them are mentioned didn’t really make much of a difference (especially with Kaitlyn, who is an incredible minor character). I think the film still retains all of the emotional gut punches that the book has, and even though I knew when to expect those kicks to the feels, I was still caught unaware. As soon as we hit the gas station scene, I was sitting with a permanent sad face that lasted up until the final scene. I actually found the end of the film to be more bittersweet because we get to see Hazel’s reactions and feelings play out, rather than simply reading the same thing she was reading. There’s just something about hearing the actor read out what their character has written that just gets to me.

I reacted  little bit better to the characters in the film than I did in the book. I’d said in my book review that at the beginning of the book, I liked Hazel but wasn’t too keen on Gus, and at the end those switched around. Here, my liking of Hazel didn’t sour as much as it did at the end of the book and this is probably because this is a visual medium where we’re not always getting Hazel’s thoughts, which I thought were incredibly cynical and even rude in the book. I think that Shailene Woodley played her to be a little bit more civil, despite all of the emotions that Hazel has, which made for a great performance because she obviously has an incredibly good grasp on the character. As for Ansel Elgort, I think he gave an amazing performance as Gus. And although he did manage to make me roll my eyes with the whole metaphor thing at the beginning of the film, it wasn’t as overboard as in the film, thanks to the charming, and then incredibly powerful, performance that Elgort gives. I know that I’ve said before that I’m not a crier, but my face was definitely doing all sorts of things when it came to Gus at the end of the film. Now, I want to talk about Willem Dafoe, who gave my favourite performance in the whole film as Peter Van Houten. In the book, Van Houten is a pretty shitty person, however when Dafoe brought him to life on screen, he became completely repulsive, and that is definitely a good thing. I didn’t actually know that Dafoe was in this film, but when he appeared on that screen, I had a pretty good feeling that he would give an awesome performance. And also, the Swedish hip-hop didn’t sound as bad as I thought it would.

Visually, The Fault in Our Stars is a simple but beautiful film. Because this is a contemporary film, there aren’t really any fancy camera techniques which just seems pretty obvious. However, the landscapes and long shots that we see are stunning, especially the scenes that take place in Amsterdam. I’m glad that the crew actually filmed in Amsterdam (is there any other way?) because we get to see the beautiful landscape of the city, which is seen from almost all angles. There are a few moments that have been filmed in a sort of clichéd manner (when Hazel is taken to the emergency room, it’s all in slow motion and there’s no sound, for example) but that didn’t really bother me because it was so effective.

Moving on to the music, TFiOS uses music that is very typical of teen romance/drama films. We have both licensed music, and the average soft guitar and piano score that is used in every single film that’s about normal people somewhat normal situations. To be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the score, partly because of how average it is, and partly because it is completely overshadowed by the amount of licensed music that is used. I’m not usually a fan of pop songs in films because I tend to get distracted by them, but I actually liked the songs that were used in the film. Not enough to actually go out and buy the soundtrack though, but they were pretty good songs.

I like the film version of The Fault in Our Stars just about the same amount as I enjoyed the book. The film follows the book very closely, with very few differences, and the characters are wonderfully brought to life by its cast mainly comprised of actors that I haven’t seen before (excluding Willem Dafoe, who I’ve seen plenty of times). This isn’t one of those films that you have to read the book before watching, which is nice for your average movie goers, and I think also a bit of a treat for bookish people who often like the film to be very much like the book.

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