A YA novel adaptations that turns out convincing me as a sad teenage romance story with quaint cancer issue—that doesn’t exploit the cancer issues to pump up audience’s emotion, but optimistically hails the YOLO points of view of our terminally-ill characters.
“I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once,” said Hazel Grace Lancaster.
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Adapted from John Green’s most notable sicklit novel, The Fault in Our Stars is a phenomenon in this heyday of Young Adult novel adaptation era. The novel has been a “spectacular now” to worldwide audiences and filming it has been a serious buzz since then. Like any other adaptations of YA novels, I have no intention to reading them simply to avoid bias when I come watching the film; then, it works. I would declare loud and clear that The Fault in Our Stars turns out convincing me as a sad teenage romance story with quaint cancer issue—that doesn’t exploit the cancer issues to pump up audience’s emotion, but optimistically hails the YOLO points of view of our terminally-ill characters.
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a girl with terminal stage of Thyroid cancer, meets a companion in the same boat on Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an 18-year-old one legged cancer survivor, while attending the same support group. They interweave connection to each other via films and book; and become mutually obsessed with An Imperial Affliction, a novel by Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe). Along their too-good-to-be-true journey, Hazel and Gus find credence to each other, and more, they also find confidence in living the rest of their unfair life.
The film goes around reflecting the persona of Augustus Waters—with our characters’ passionate optimism to live not for a cure but to survive the rest of it with nothing but their bests. Apparently, the story finds it ground in a carpe diem fervor that feels warm anytime we get into it. If you expect this film makes you cry for losing someone for cancer, you get the wrong end—it forces you to weep silently for losing your chance to live in optimism like our characters do. Certainly, it’s sad; but it doesn’t end with just sadness, but with something further beyond it. With apt script written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer and another Woodley’s The Spectacular Now), that persona is described in a sentimental way filling up with ordinary dialogues you can’t never forget ’till your ‘little infinity.’
I’m personally attached to The Fault in Our Stars, not because I have similar story or issue. Yet, there’s one moment that makes me feel a little sentimental—the moment when Isaac (Nat Wolff) recites an eulogy before Gus. That contemplating scene immediately brings about a memory back to my university life, when one lecturer asked me (and other students) to find people to give me eulogies while I’m still there—reflecting to what I’ve done and been also what I haven’t.
Just because I feel so attached to this film, it doesn’t mean that this film bears no lame point. After an inspiring climactic first half, the film sinks within its second half that feels so slow and draggy. It feels like the story wants to relieve the audiences with beautiful extraordinary teenage romance before it opens the tearjerking curtains. Lucky, The Fault in Our Stars has amazing soundtracks that helps spinning the yarn and making every moment alive just like in indie hits Juno and 500 Days of Summer (feel it the way Charli XCX’s Boom Clap tells). Fresh chemistry among Woodley and Elgort (who previously portrayed sister and brother in Divergent) is monumental as it goes bittersweet on screen; their presence mostly saves the whole film (not just the second half).
With strong performance by Shailene Woodley in delivering a fragile but gritty Hazel, she is not only expanding her acting range, yet, most obviously making The Fault in Our Stars finds a home. I really hope people who have read the book might appreciate this adaptation; ’cause, seriously it resembles nothing but you expected complexity of teenage romance with cancer issue that is served fresh with beautiful plating (of drama and fun—instead of comedy).
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Drama, Romance, Adaptation Running Time: 126 mins Directed by: Josh Boone Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber based on novel by John Green Starred by: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammellstills and references: