On the Silver Screen – The Fault In Our Stars
Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a young woman who has been unfortunate in her life and was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. After battling for what seemed like an eternity her condition stabilised to a degree and she is able to live a somewhat normal life, save for the fact that she has to carry around an oxygen tank at all times and there’s the constant risk of her lungs filling up with fluid.
Hazel is not a pessimistic character in any way, she lives her life with a sort of frustrated optimism and determination. In a sense she’s too frustrated to let her illness get her down so she soldiers on. The film is narrated from her perspective so we get a lot of candid descriptions about her treatment and how much pain has been in her life up to this point. There’s a particularly good scene where the treatment is shown as she would experience it where we see disjointed images as she fades in and out of consciousness. Really effective and powerful stuff. Woodley is just fantastic in the role, playing it with an optimistic innocence and a deep sense of maturity. She conveys the heavy emotions perfectly but manages to retain a light hearted edge throughout, she truly is a wonderful actress.
Laura Dern and Sam Trammell play Hazel’s parents Frannie and Michael who do what they can to cope with her illness, Michael isn’t featured all that often but we do see a lot of Frannie and the relationship she has with her daughter serves as something of the emotional core of the film. Frannie goes through life in a sort of denial because that’s the only way she can remain positive and be as strong as she needs to be for Hazel. Their relationship is the best thing in the film for me as it often shows a mother/daughter friendship that runs deep probably due to the fact that Hazel’s upbringing has been sheltered due to her illness, that doesn’t make the friendship any less close and it makes complete sense that it would unfold given the circumstances.
Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) was to my mind, the weak link in this film. I didn’t find Elgort especially believable in the role and his character just annoyed me. There was something horribly unrealistic about him, there wasn’t a minute where I believed that he was anything resembling a real person. He just comes across as an emotionally available, perfect fantasy boy for teenage girls. Given how real I found Hazel’s character it’s disappointing that her love interest doesn’t share that believability. There’s a certain flatness to his acting that just irked me throughout, I can’t think of any standout moments from the actor or the character.
For what it is, the film tells the story very well and most of the characters are engaging enough to carry the narrative. In some places I felt that the story dragged and in general I felt like the script was beating me over the head repeatedly with the message. After the fifteenth minute I was painfully aware that life should be lived to the fullest and how lucky I am to not have such afflictions. Beyond that I felt that the film kept labouring the point over and over again until it became somewhat meaningless. I did like the subtext of the film shown by likening Hazel’s situation to her favourite novel, also about a young cancer sufferer but the meeting of the reclusive author Peter Van Houten (Willem Defoe) really strained believability. Willem Defoe was good in the role but I found the scene difficult to sit through.
Perhaps I’m being hard on the film as I don’t really like this sort of thing in general but I did for the most part enjoy it. Any scene that was dealing with Hazel on her own and chronicling her life and struggles was absolutely fantastic but the purpose of the film, as in the romance didn’t work for me. There was a lack of chemistry between the two leads brought on largely by Ansel Elgort’s dodgy acting. I do think the romance was built up well to begin with in terms of structure but the lack of chemistry meant that I couldn’t be invested in it to any great degree.
The Fault In Our Stars
Overall, I thought this film was good even if the romance did little for me. I really liked how realistically Hazel’s illness was portrayed and would have watched a film about that alone. There were many touching scenes in the film and Shailene Woodley’s strong performance really does make this film, if only her co-star had been able to keep up with her.