The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has been a young adult fiction phenomenon. The movie version starring Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster and Ansel Elgort as Gus is a worthy film. It’s sharp, sad, plucky, gutsy, and the key to these teens’ lives is to not just be oblivion. They want to matter and they don’t want their cancer to define them. Yes, these kids have cancer. No, that’s not the point of the movie. The point is ultimately teen love, heart, and sheer living with every fiber.
Shailene Woodley continues her streak of tremendous acting. She’s so smart and so real – her Hazel is snarky, wise, and a passionate girl who has lung issues that can kill her. Gus – so wise, full of soul, and yes, he’s darn cute – has a bone cancer that took his leg. But he’s strong and sees the glow of Hazel. My review is gushy because this is such a great movie. Lots of laugh out loud lines and moments. Even during some tough breathing times for Hazel, she’s spunky. That’s the key. While her mother (played by a very good Laura Dern) tells Hazel to make friends, it’s only out of concern. The mom wants Hazel to be sorta “normal”, and embraces Gus. He infuses Hazel with energy and indeed some normalcy.
Hazel and Gus are obsessed with a book by a Peter Van Houten called The Imperial Affliction. It’s like a defining cancer fiction story. Gus uses his “make a wish” to take Hazel and her mother to the Netherlands to meet Van Houten. He (played by Willem Dafoe) is a total jerk, but that’s rather key to the movie. It strengthens the kids’ relationship and also defines the issue of living with cancer. They also visit the Anne Frank home and that’s very powerful as Hazel lugs her oxygen up a zillion teeny steps.
All in all, the movie is a faithful rendition of the book. Bring tissues. I won’t say more about the plot. The Fault in Our Stars has depth, great acting, and lessons that don’t pound you over the head, but should be embraced. See the movie, sniffle a bit, and then enjoy life, breathe deep, run, love, and avoid oblivion.