The Fault in Our Stars
dir Josh Boone
scr Scott Neustadter, Michael H Weber
prd Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
with Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Lotte Verbeek, Mike Birbiglia, Ana Dela Cruz, Randy Kovitz, David Whalen, Milica Govich
release US 6.Jun.14, UK 19.Jun.14
14/US Fox 2h05
The Fault in Our Stars
Young love: Elgort and Woodley

wolff dern dafoe
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Fault in Our Stars Based on John Green's beloved novel, a terrific story and strong cast are undermined by writing and direction that are far too obvious and manipulative. Each scene is so on-the-nose that there's nothing left for viewers to discover, and no way to internalise the important themes. It just sits there on the screen telling us when to cry.

Hazel (Woodley) is a 17-year-old cancer patient stabilised by a new treatment. But mortality is palpable for her and her protective, loving parents (Dern and Trammell). So it's no surprise that she pushes everyone else away, including persistently flirty support-group member Gus (Elgort). A cancer survivor, 18-year-old Gus proves irresistible to Hazel, and they embark on what she's careful to keep as a friendship, hanging out with his buddy Isaac (Wolff). Then Gus sorts out a make-a-wish trip to Amsterdam so Hazel can meet her favourite novelist (Dafoe), and their story takes several turns.

The film is aimed at teen girls who will be in floods of tears from the start; everyone else will struggle to see this as even vaguely realistic. That's not because of the plot or cast, but because director Boone relentlessly pushes every button, never allowing a scene to play out organically. So none of the characters feels authentic, while the narrative itself begins to feel suspect simply because the script so carefully shapes each tidy scene and plot twist.

Thankfully, Woodley adds a blast of honesty to every scene, finding truth in each situation. The best moments are between her and the equally superb Dern. By contrast, the hugely likeable Elgort is directed to play Gus as a dork who's also an eerily articulate jock with an artist's soul. You've never met anyone like this because they don't exist. Elgort is adept at creating lively, unpredictable characters (see Divergent and Carrie), but Boone clearly didn't trust the audience to get it.

This condescending approach also mars Boone's previous film, Stuck in Love. And it's a shame that this film is just as unsubtle, because it's packed with terrific themes that both adults and teens can connect with in meaningful ways. This is a story that encourages us to live fully, regardless of how many days we get. And more subtle filmmaking might have even reduced the cynics to tears.

cert 12 themes, language, brief sexuality 6.Jun.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall