“The Fault in Our Stars,” a tale of two teenage cancer patients and their star-crossed romance, remains true to Green’s novel. Much of the script is made up of quotes taken directly from Green’s text. So much, in fact, that there’s a great chance you’ll be sitting in a theater beside a group of teary-eyed tweens reciting lines out loud mid-sob along with the main characters on the screen.
Green’s grandiose language and phrasing worked on the page largely because it was just that: on the page — clearly fictional and left un-concretely open to the reader’s imagination. On screen, it feels uncomfortably elevated.
When Ansel Elgort as Augusts Waters holds an unlit cigarette in his mouth and calls it a metaphor, it’s no longer charming. It’s just kind of weird. Who does that?
And the translation of picturesque text messages sent between Gus and Hazel from page to screen is less than graceful. Cutesy text bubbles pop up frequently as Elgort and Shailene Woodley smile down at their iPhones. Fifty years from now, people will watch this film and think, “weird!” I don’t care what director Josh Boone (“Stuck in Love”) says. Texting isn’t artistically timeless.
But “The Fault in Our Stars” is still good. To take a quote from the film and the novel it’s based on, “Pain demands to be felt.” This tear-jerker is 125 minutes of pleasant pain and the audience will be sure to feel it.
Woodley (“The Descendants,” “The Spectacular Now”) is charming and believable as an intelligent Hazel Grace Lancaster who’s fed up with the romanticized cancer stories that dominate popular culture and fed up even more with cancer in general.
But even underneath the oxygen tubes that adorn her face for the entirety of the film, Woodley is far too obviously beautiful to be a 16-year-old, stage four cancer patient and too old. At 22, Woodley out-matures the character she’s playing — especially next to her 20-year-old baby-faced co-star. Elgort, who’s playing Hazel’s older love interest, looks uncomfortably younger than Woodley.
Gus’ heartbroken and big-hearted blind BFF, Isaac, is played magnificently by Nat Wolff (“Stuck in Love”). And if Gus and Hazel’s love story doesn’t make you cry (it will), then watching Hazel’s parents love (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) and suffer alongside their sick daughter will. After all, as Hazel says, “The only thing that bites worse than having cancer is having a kid with cancer.”
When Hazel and Gus share their first kiss in Anne Frank’s attic and the surrounding tourists erupt in applause, it’s going to be weird. But when the movie ends and you’re wiping off your tear-stained cheeks, you’re going to feel a lot of love for life and for love itself. Okay? Okay.