The Fault in Our Stars

In the 44 years since that bestseller turned movie Love Story made diseased young love a popular culture commodity, writers and filmmakers have dispensed with dramatic buildup and have been introducing audiences to characters and their maladies almost immediately. Once TB (or consumption) was reserved for the Third Act, sweeping in to usher one character or other into the wings. But no longer. That writers and directors no long wait has made leukemia or lymphoma or senility or HIV a character in the given story, the villain at whom we boo and hiss. Josh Boone's film adaptation of John Green's teen tale of love in the age of cancer stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Spectacular Now) and Ansel Elgort (Divergent) as young people living with cancer who meet in support group and fall in love despite Hazel's failing lungs and world-weariness. Elgort's Gus is a ray of single-amputee sunshine whose outlook is blisteringly optimistic. Hazel is soon walking toward the light. The story's centerpiece is a trip that takes Hazel, Gus and Hazel's mom (a luminous Laura Dern) to visit Hazel's favorite novelist (Willem Dafoe), a recluse living in Amsterdam, so that she and Gus, who one suspects loves the man's enigmatic book because Gus loves the girl, might experience some closure. Woodley, a fine young actress who is becoming an old pro at playing distressed teens, carries this solid picture, which is hobbled just a bit by Elgort's odd two-dimensionality. It's not so much that he's bad, because he's quite good. It's more the case that he's danseur noble to Woodley's prima ballerina, which is an interesting dynamic to watch particularly during the Third Act. Because Woodley is so good, Elgort's Gus seems under-modulated or fuzzy. Still, it's a solid picture, for those who like their teen angst served raw. Recommended but it's a real weepy woo-woo.


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