By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s called “a good cry.”
That’s what happens when your tears aren’t so much jerked as invited, by a well-made movie.
A movie very much like The Fault in Our Stars, a melancholy romantic drama based on the 2012 Young Adult bestseller of the same name by John Green that lives at the star-crossed intersection of love and death.
Shailene Woodley, from The Descendants and Divergent, plays sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, the film’s narrator, a tell-it-like-it-is member of a teen cancer support group who is afflicted with stage four thyroid and lung cancer, lives with devoted helicopter parents (played by Laura Dern and Sam Trammell), and must carry an oxygen tank around with her.
Ansel Elgort (who played Woodley’s brother in Divergent) is Augustus “Gus” Waters, an unfailingly enthusiastic member of the support group who has lost one of his legs to cancer and now has a prosthetic replacement.
He’s the definitive “glass-half-full” guy, and she’s the “glass-half-empty” poster girl. But they bond over their cruel shared fate and their respectively sharp sense of humor, and it’s the first step in the development of a slow-build romance, with Gus’ feelings for her getting translated much more readily into actions than hers for him.
But she’ll get there.
They both sense, in different ways, that this may be each the only chance for each of them at not only first love but true love, in a tragically shortened life.
As a dying wish, Hazel would like to go to Amsterdam to meet the controversial author of her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction in Amsterdam, one Peter Van Houten, played by Willem Dafoe. So, Augustus sets out to make it happen.
Nat Wolff is Isaac, Gus’s best friend, another member of the support group, who contributes what can only be described as comic relief, however dark it might be.
Yes, The Fault in Our Stars has its share of gallows-humor chuckles.
The director, John Boone (Stuck in Love), handles things delicately if not succinctly, and trusts the heartfelt material, the charming characters, and his two charismatic leads to deliver the emotional package and overcome any resistance or discomfort we might want to hide behind.
The adapted screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who also wrote (500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now, addresses the tragedy tenderly and mines for the joy that can be found in a life of any duration –- otherwise known as living for today –- as well as the importance of preparing for death and of accepting the inevitability of it.
Woodley is an astounding young actress, conveying the reality of her character without coming close to a false note. Elgort has a tougher chore keeping it real with a character so relentlessly upbeat.
Still, together, they are an immensely appealing couple. What you’re watching here are two can’t-miss stars, perhaps even faultless stars, in lived-in roles.
So we’ll face the group with 3 stars out of 4 for a heart-wrenching romantic teen melodrama. No need to worry about a sad movie’s faults when the tears are earned.
Which is the case, dear Brutus, with The Fault in Our Stars.