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The Fault in Our Stars

Posted by martinteller on June 10, 2014

As I’ve said before, the more popular and widely-discussed a movie is, the less I’m inclined to write about it.  As the #1 box office draw this past weekend — beating out Disney, Tom Cruise and superheroes — I feel like there’s enough chatter about this one without me needing to say all that much.  I enjoyed the sentimental teen romance of it.  It’s not very successful as a film about cancer, but I don’t think it’s trying to be.  The cancer provides the unusual, tragic circumstances that Hazel and Gus cope with, but this isn’t meant to be a realistic study of living with cancer.  It’s a movie romance, with the good and bad that goes with that.  Characters and scenarios are idealized, people don’t talk like anyone really talks.  I can and do enjoy heightened dialogue, but I have to say Gus is annoyingly glib, always having the perfect thing to say.  Any empathy I felt was for Hazel, a stellar performance by Shailene Woodley.  It’s Hazel that makes the picture as moving as it is, despite some cliché and sentimentality.  Laura Dern also does an excellent job as Hazel’s mom.  Her presence brought to mind her role as the love interest in Mask, a movie that deals with similar issues/scenarios.

It isn’t a perfect movie and it isn’t really a great movie, but it’s a nice movie.  It has some terrific writing, the material is relatable and thought-provoking not just for the young adult audience, but the old adult audience as well.  I also quite liked the soundtrack, although it features mostly acts this Old Adult has never heard of.  The cinematography is pleasant if unexceptional (I did notice one oddly-framed shot with the characters’ heads off) and the story moves at a solid pace with no troublesome shifts in tonality.  The only real problem is Gus, either the way he’s written or Elgort’s performance or a combination of the two.  And even Gus isn’t disastrous, just a bit irritating.  A sweet and touching film with some smarts and some humor.  Rating: Good (75)

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