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Movie review: "The Fault in Our Stars" - 8/10

Blogs and Columns
Posted by DougLane on 2014/6/13 1:00:00 (2556 reads)

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The Fault in Our Stars (June 2014)
Directed by Josh Boone, Written by
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Starring Shailene Woodley & Ansel Elgort
Rated: PG-13
Review: 8 / 10
Open in new windowBy Doug Lane

"The Fault in Our Stars" is a movie that, by its own definition, defies conventions; it begins by narrating (or outright demanding) to the audience that this isn’t a happy or traditional love story. And while the film does willingly fall into these conventional trappings it fights so hard against, it doesn’t make the journey any less worthy.

To say this film has a plot would be an overstatement, but what this film does have is actors digging deep to find what a life shaped by death would be like. Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus “Gus” (Ansel Elgort) are terminally-ill cancer patients struggling to find meaning before their life becomes inevitably cut short. Hazel recludes herself to a life of reality shows and chemotherapy, wishing her life was as glamorous as the ones on television. So of course when she meets hunky bombastic Gus, making glamourous speeches about oblivion and being remembered, she’s instantly attracted.

They seem like a legitimate young couple, not worrying about the future while time seemingly stops between their eyes. She sees the glamour in him, while he sees an audience in her. In a sense, they both find missing meaning within one another: the inevitable future seems to cease and for a moment, it seems that they’ll both make it out of this alright.

Woodley and Elgort’s chemistry oozes, but this is Woodley’s movie more than anyone. Even when the movie descend into campy rom-com territory, Woodley’s Hazel is strong, powerful, but vulnerable. She’s the heart and soul of this movie, radiating from ecstasy to pure heartbreak and back to hopeful again. While Elgort’s acting flaws are more noticeable by comparison, it only detracts in select places.

Some critics have called the third act manipulative, and indeed it is. Director Josh Boone and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500) Days of Summer) are not subtle with their manipulation, nor do they try to be. From an emotional standpoint, it’s perfect: the acting, the soft-beating soundtrack, the close-ups of teary-eyed faces really jam their way right into the heart.

But this also seems to be the movie’s conceit: a movie that claims to be against romantic cinematic conventions falls neatly into them, only slightly altering how we look at them. It’s self-perceived subversion is just that: self-perceived. It doesn’t break any new grounds, but it explores familiar territory well. You feel for Hazel and Gus, you feel their love and their sadness, even though you know what’s going to happen. Maybe an alternative rock album or soft-focus close-ups aren’t realistic, or necessarily helpful, but maybe that's the point.

Art constantly struggles to depict life, and at best, it's only a description, a perception of it. The Fault in Our Stars isn't making a strong argument against romantic cinema, but an argument for it: maybe putting these conventions in a particular fashion can still mean something. Sadness is a journey, always seeming unending and awful, only given real perspective upon retrospection. So while we all know the ending to our lives, we don’t feel that way. It's the moments in between that are definitive.

Doug Lane is a Lewisville resident, attending the University of North Texas, where he studies literature. Lane graduated from Lewisville High School, where he wrote movie reviews for the Farmers Harvest
Copyright 2014, Doug Lane - Licensed to the Lewisville Texan Journal

- Rating: 9.00 (6 votes) - {$lang_ratethisnews}

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