"You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful."
The Fault in Our Stars is one of those rare romantic melodramas that succeeds thanks to its talented cast and its believable script. Considering how easy it could've been to emotionally manipulate and exploit the audience with the material, director Josh Boone did an excellent job of recreating a tender love story while avoiding cliches and one dimensional characters. I was unfamiliar with John Green's bestselling novel which this film was based on, but I had high expectations for this film considering the script was adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber whose work in 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now I highly admired. The Fault in Our Stars didn't disappoint thanks to yet another powerful performance from Shailene Woodley (in my opinion her best work), who played her character in such a natural way that she made the story feel believable. Considering the subject matter this film could've been over manipulative, but it never feels this way thanks to a smart and intelligent script and some strong performances. The film balances these dramatic moments with grace and there were also some very funny moments that helped lighten the mood when things got grim. This isn't like other cancer dramas (I'm mostly thinking of My Sisters Keeper here) which have mostly failed by being too exploitive, because this film handles the material with grace. It's still a heartbreaking film, but it is much more natural in the way it approaches the material. This is one of those rare chick flicks that guys will actually enjoy as well.
This love story is narrated by Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley), a teenager who has been diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer and has to carry an oxygen tank with her at all times in order to breathe. In an effort to get her out of the house, her parents, Frannie (Laura Dern) and Michael (Sam Trammell), convince her to join a cancer support group. Despite thinking it's a waste of time, something good comes out of it when she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). He happens to be there supporting his friend, Isaac (Nat Wolff), who has a tumor in his eye and is about to lose his sight. Augustus himself is a former cancer survivor who lost his leg and is now wearing a prosthetic one. From the moment they bumped into each other at the support group, he just can't take his eyes off her and easily wins Hazel over with his charm and wit. The two become good friends although their relationship seems to be a bit more limited by time than most other couples.
In order for a film like this to work it is important that the two main characters share a strong and believable chemistry together. The Fault in Our Stars makes the most out of this thanks to strong and natural performances from both Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. The chemistry between the two is amazing allowing the relationship to feel authentic and captivating at the same time. We've all seen what Woodley can do, and she has been amazing in every film she's been in, but this is, in my opinion her best performance to date. Ansel Elgort on the other hand completely took me by surprise as I wasn't too impressed with his work in Divergent, but here he is incredibly charming. Nat Wolff, who was one of the main characters in Josh Boone's previous film (Stuck in Love), has an important supporting role here considering his character helps break some of the dramatic tension with several laugh out loud moments. Those scenes really helped lighten up the mood and made this a much funnier film than what I was expecting. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell are also convincing as the parents who are dealing with their daughter's condition. The scenes that really didn't work for me however, were the ones involving Willem Defoe as the author of Hazel's favorite novel. Those scenes were just too weird and took me out of the story, but it's my only complaint for an otherwise incredibly captivating and tear inducing romantic drama.