Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (USA, 2014)

Nine Things about the Movie The Fault in Our Stars

1. This film is based on the young adult novel by the same name. It's about a girl with cancer that falls in love with a boy she meets at a support group. I never read it, because that's just not my kind of story. But friends that did read it were frothing at the mouth, proclaiming how good it was. So when the movie came out, I decided to give it a try.

2. A romantic drama about kids with cancer screams exploitation. Exploitation of cancer, and exploitation of the audience. I expected an emotionally-manipulative, sugar coated piece of crap that would give me diabetes.

3. I was so wrong. The movie knows what the conventions are for this kind of movie, and deliberately subverts them. It's a smart, clear-eyed look at terminal love.

4. The burgeoning relationship is handled well. The girl, Hazel, and the boy, Gus, struggle with their feelings for each other, knowing that the relationship can't go anywhere.

5. The movie stares death straight in the face. Hazel admits to an existential loneliness, while
Gus struggles to find a deeper meaning to his life.

6. There's a subplot where the two travel to Amsterdam to visit their favorite author (played with acidic gruffness by Willem Dafoe). The meeting does not go as well as the two had hoped, and the resulting feelings ripple through their world-views.

7. Hazel is played by Shailene Woodley and Gus is played by Ansel Elgort. They also played brother and sister in "Divergent". Woodley and Elgort are astounding in their portrayal of the characters. It's some of the best acting I've seen this year.

8. There are several times that the movie has the chance to veer into the typical romantic angst, or a depiction of courage in the face of impossible obstacles. But each time, it refuses to go there, staying on a more realistic path.

9. This movie sparkles with intelligence and wit and sorrow. Especially considering it's targeted at young people, it openly struggles with the harder truths about life, and doesn't flinch when it gives sad answers. I can see some parents having problems with letting their kid go see this. But the realistic trajectory of the movie is exactly what gives the movie a real heart, so when it does get emotional, it feels much more natural, not exploitative, to go with it.