Film adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars is more than “okay”


Protagonists Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) and Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) take a romantic stroll through the streets of Amsterdam. The star-crossed lovers travel to the city in search of their favorite author, Peter Van Houten.

Ana Espinoza, Editor-in-Chief

The room resonates with sobs.  Not polite sniffles, but the sort of wracking, pent-up crying you would expect at a funeral.  It’s not quite a funeral, though. It’s a showing of The Fault in Our Stars, an adaptation of John Green’s best-selling young adult novel.  The decidedly sentimental movie is surprisingly faithful to Green’s remarkable writing, and, after a string of disappointing really-good-young-adult-book-to-middling-movie adaptations, is refreshingly well executed.

The plot of the film follows Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year-old girl with thyroid cancer, failing lungs, and a biting wit, in her love for Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a charmingly intellectual osteosarcoma survivor.  The two meet at a cancer support group.  The couple shares a cultish love for fictional cancer narrative, An Imperial Affliction, written by Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe).  They are joined by friend Isaac (Nat Wolff), who is about to lose his sight to eye cancer.  Gus later sums it up, with a smirk: “You see, we may not look like much, but between the three of us we have five legs, four eyes and two and a half working pairs of lungs.”

Woodley is an excellent Hazel, although newcomer Elgort is slightly less pleasing, as he sometimes falls into the smirking, theatrical “cool teenage bad boy” trope. Acting veterans Laura Dern, as Hazel’s mother, and Dafoe are also phenomenal, understandably, and Wolff provides much-appreciated comic relief.

But the starring pair make a convincing couple that will satisfy audiences.  And although viewers who have read the book (a likely screaming majority) will have a hard time judging the highly-anticipated movie objectively without wailing whenever Gus whispers one of their favorite lines, non-readers will be crying and smiling to themselves as well.

That being said, the movie is impressive in its adherence to the novel, and, consequently, in its unwillingness to dumb down “grown-up” words and concepts for a largely adolescent audience. Most of the script was lifted from the book’s text, which is good, because the book sold so well that the filmmakers probably didn’t have to worry about people not “getting” the references.

Credits go to the talented screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, who wrote the similarly indie teenager-leaning 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now.  Green was present for the filming of the movie in Pittsburgh and was active in promoting the film, for which he will receive no royalties.

As of late, book-to-movie adaptations are largely hit or miss.  Film adaptations of best-selling works tend to romanticize, to pile on the makeup and cast a certain, very non-teenager-y glow on everything (sometimes sparkly, sometimes not).

The Fault in our Stars lets Green’s characters be themselves.  It is particularly heartening to see a female protagonist in sweatpants and, most notably, a cannula, the latter for the entire duration of the two-hour film.  The film challenges Hollywood standards of girls who look like they’ve been made up for prom just before English class, and is wonderfully convincing about it.

The Fault in the Stars is great. It is beautifully filmed, particularly the scenes filmed on location in Amsterdam this past fall,  so leaving hyperbole at the door, people on edge about the film should find a box of tissues and see it.  But any committed Green fan will probably shake their heads in disapproval if you don’t read the book first.