As morbid as it sounds, the “Cancer Movie” has become a genre all on its own in the world of film. First only thought to live in the realm of the chick flick, but movies based on this terrible disease have garnered quite an audience over the last three decades even with the bleak subject matter. This shouldn’t surprise you considering everyone knows someone who has fought, survived or unfortunately died from cancer. This dreary subject matter has gained an audience over the years because of it’s depiction of life with the disease. Let’s face it, many films’ depiction of cancer can be a little too sweet and cuddly. The character with the disease seems to always pass away peacefully as a breeze blows through the curtains in the open window. That’s not the reality of cancer. The Fault in Our Stars attempts to break the mold and give you a movie that’s not so positive, but very real when you are given the diagnosis of terminal.
The Fault in Our Stars stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel. She is a 16-year-old girl who has been fighting cancer to the point of death for the last few years. After being miscast in Divergent, Shailene Woodley shines as the less-than-positive Hazel who leads a simple life due to her disease. This isn’t a film where the disease is hidden from the world in a pretty Mandy Moore like shell. Hazel looks as if she hasn’t slept for days as she drags her oxygen tank behind her. Woodley’s narrations about life concerning her disease, family, lack of friends and especially her take on funerals are the strongest parts of The Fault in Our Stars. Woodley makes you buy into the emotions of the sheltered teenager who knows the reaper could come at any moment.
Woodley is the strength of The Fault in Our Stars, but unfortunately her co-star Ansel Elgort prevents the film from being great. Elgort’s Gus is the guy Hazel falls for at a support group and the character is just too unbelievable at times. You have a performance from Woodley that is so strong and real, but unfortunately we get a heart-throb boyfriend role that should be living in some chick flick. The role of Gus doesn’t get believable for the audience until the third act and, even then, the shades of rom-com cheesiness were still present. It’s a good thing Woodley was there to carry the weak character that was bestowed on Ansel Elgort. I’m sure young girls will go crazy for Gus, but this black heart couldn’t get behind this corny love interest.
The Fault in Our Stars may be misguided trying to appease the chick flick loving audience that will show up for this movie, but it’s depictions of life with cancer are powerful enough to lessen the groans concerning the hopeless romantic Gus. Laura Dern rounds out the cast as Hazel’s positive to a fault mother Frannie. Dern’s role is small, but she makes the most of it as a parent that knows she will outlive her child. The scenes with Hazel’s family, especially her Mom, are heartbreaking and real. You feel for Dern’s Frannie even if you want her to stop sugar-coating everything.
I didn’t read the book the The Fault in Our Stars, but in the film the reclusive author character seemed to be thrown at the audience with little explanation. The author and novel the two youths cherish so much-needed to be explained more to the members of the audience who didn’t read the book. This could have given people like me a better understanding of the importance of the novel to the young teen lovers. Now I know how all my friends feel when they watch comic book movies with me. Still, I was impressed with Woodley’s performance and the depiction of the depressing world of living with cancer. But next time, ditch the sappy scenes and give us reality.
Overall, I give The Fault in Our Stars 2.5 out of 4 stars.
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