MOVIE REVIEW - The Fault In Our Stars

on 10 June 2014.

Opening to about 50 million its first weekend out, this movie is going to be loved by many for years to come.

This is a tear-jerking teen cancer movie, and a love story that knows exactly who is watching, and zero's in.  This will be a movie that many will see multiple times, and then buy the Blu-Ray in 90 days.  It has shades of Nicholas Sparks, (although it is not) and enough syrup to cover a tall stack, and enough sap to make it.

This is the story of a 17 year-old really nice kid named Hazel, (Shailene Woodley).  She has terminal lung cancer and is struggling not only to stay alive, but to live.  She meets Augustus (Ansel Elgort) at a cancer support group meeting for teens.  He is a cancer survivor himself, and is immediately attracted to Hazel.  She is reluctant of course, and tries to distance herself to a degree from him, all the while slowly falling in love with him.  And he her.

It's the story of these two and their journey into love for the first time as they each are battling the clock and cancer demons.  Hazel as a patient, and Gus as a survivor.  We watch them meet, and court and eventually fall in love at a healthy pace for real life, but an agonizing pace on screen.  Will they be able to overcome all of the obstacles that life has in general, not to mention the challenge of terminal illness?  That, in a nutshell is The Fault In Our Stars.

Up front, Woodley was born to play Hazel.  I am a fan of hers for the most part. I loved her in the Spectacular Now, last summers surprise hit.  But not so much in the super boring Divergent this spring.   She is a wonderful mix of vulnerability and underdog, that really makes her amazingly believable and easy to watch. Woodley is blessed with a simpleness that makes her real and authentic, and perfect for these awkward teen love stories. She is the gas in the engine of this movie, and it fails without her.

But this movie has a few jagged edged problems that are just too big to ignore.  This is certainly too long, and overblown.  It also makes the same sappy point time after time, and belabors its point to the point of nausea.  It strives for as many "awww"  moments as it possibly can, and that will certainly endear this movie to a whole new generation of young girls that will make this movie this generations, The Notebook.   In years to come, this will be on a whole lot of personal "favorite movie lists."

But among the sap and cheese, there is some nice humor here at times that is hard to ignore so we can breathe, and this does develop characters well.  There are probably a couple too many, but that's not a deal breaker.  Woodley is great in this large role and carries the day.  Elgort is adequate at best, but the writers didn't do him any favors, as he is asked to be supremely sweet and soft every time he walks on screen - period.  All the while constantly uttering line after line of "awww" dialogue.  While Woodley is given far more room for depth, and to maneuver better.

This is not a bad movie by any stretch, and I do understand I am not the target audience. But this deals with tough stuff, and it deserved better in many ways. Another screen rewrite for some spots.  A fresh set of eyes. A tighter editing blade, and a more powerful star next to Woodley would have been the call.  This, with some reworking, could have been a strong movie for everyone, and not just for teens.

The Fault In Our Stars.  The target will LOVE this movie.

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