The Faults in Our Stars – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

The Faults in Our StarsThe Faults in Our Stars – 4/5 – Have you ever heard the expression that Wine get’s better with age; that is pretty much how this film feels when you watch it.  A film dubbed a ‘chick flick’, when you finish watching it, the film becomes something more than just a traditional cliché love story.  This film stands for deeper meanings that hit more at home than any teenage love story should.  The Faults in Our Stars starts off slow, but ends up being a moving experience.

Premise: Hazel and Gus are two teenagers dealing with cancer.  Through a disdain for the conventional, something develops that leads to a love that sweeps them on a journey.  In it all, Hazel begins to realize purpose life with cancer, and sees something more magical, even if there is nothing more to an infinite ideal.

In the lead role of Hazel is Shailene Woodley.  In this role of a teenager living with terminal cancer; she gives us a shade of conviction that doesn’t fret the obvious.  She knows she will die, and doesn’t hide that fact.  With that looming over her head, it plays well within the ‘teenage’ antics that she plays out on screen.  She is rash, sarcastic and sometimes blunt with her family and other’s in the film.  Her line delivery is so striking and on point, and she has a commanding presence on screen.  Everything seems ‘real’ in her lines; and the interaction she has with others in the film comes off typical; but in a good way.  At points in the film, her emotional output does come across ‘over the top’, but it is also counterbalance with a ‘reflective’ exposition that is ironic and refreshing.  Opposite her is another teenager dealing with cancer; Isaac.  Played by actor Ansel Elgort; his presence on screen helps provide a ‘kick start’ for Hazel.  His creation of a person with a grounded grandiose look on life helps provided a rod of differential positions for Hazel.  Along with this, he is also very sarcastic in his interactions with Hazel, showing a personality of deep layers that compliments her direct attitude very well.  The chemistry between them seems cliché at first, but as the film moves along, a deeper emotional connection develops.  This riveting sensation comes across very authentic, and makes all their conversations and eventful situations that will happen all more intense.  They are bright stars in this film, and show that young actors/actresses can carry a film.  Opposite these two, there are some notable people within the supporting cast.  You have:

Laura Dern as Frannie (Hasel’s mother)

Sam Trammell as Michael (Hasel’s Father)

Nat Wolff as Isaac (Gus’s friend)

Willem Dafoe as Van Houten (Hazel’s Idol/writer)

Lotte Verbeek as Lidewij (Assistance to Houten)

Each of these actors/actresses play specific roles in the film; helping add emotional elements through familiar aspect of real life (mother/father/friend) or providing a retrospective look on life (Idol).  Each of them go beyond the shtick of a typical plot device, adding strong influences to typical scenarios, creating great thematic moments.  The rest of the cast have more of a ‘background’ flavor, but this doesn’t deter from the overall experience of the film.

The direction of the film follows (at first) the traditional ideals of a ‘teenage love story’.  This common aspect seems dry, and starts a film that may just become a throwaway.  In the first act, we are introduced to our main character, Hazel.  She is, for all general purposes, dealing with her terminal illness as best as anyone can.  Adding the additional turn of ‘teenage antics’, you get a general scope of ‘sly dialogue’ and ‘quirky situations’.  Through this mixture, we get introduced to her parents and another teenager dealing with cancer, Gus.  The situations that occur within the first act for these two all feel disjointed.  There isn’t a real grip on tone and pace, as the obvious cheesiness over saturates the themes.  This is when you get the notion that this will be a cliché teenage love story/chick flick.   All the elements are there for this scenario:

Boy has crush on girl

General ‘love’ quips and awkward situations

Corny comedic situations

One dimensional teenage ‘love scenes’

That is what it feels like within the first 20 minutes.  Eventually, this basic draw sheds its skin, and you start to see the subtlety hidden within facts.  This is all a structure ploy to ‘hook’ you in for the other layers; you start to see the elements of the deeper tones of being implemented.  As the film continues, the chemistry between both Gus and Hazel becomes less about ‘teenagers’ and more about ‘living’.  You see this ideal prevalent in how Gus has a complete admiration for Hazel.  This forces her to question circumstance, as she tries her best to dance the line of falling for him but not getting to close.  Eventually, after a certain situation involving Hazel, the film begins to move towards the deeper themes, as more dramatic and ‘life changing moments’ begin to happen.  As the film moves towards this, all the corniness falls to the wayside, and we start to see real purpose in both Hazel’s denial and Gus’s motives.  Through this part (without giving too much of the story away) they start to see life through different lenses, as all the emotional quips and layering begins to blossom through their interactions and general life expositions from the supporting cast.  The emotional roller coaster of this film commences, as the audience is motioned through traditional ‘romantic’ scenes, ‘consequential’ life choices and ‘game changing’ plot points.  Once we get to the third act, there are some twist that change certain ideas and situations; forming a place where predictability and ‘happily ever after’ is thrown out the window.  This (as an audience) you realize that the film ‘ages’ into a more poignant experience.  You begin to see how the subtle layering in the generic first half forms a well rounded film.  You see the ideas of life, love and dealing with cancer becoming stronger within Gus and Hazel’s relationship, as the ‘lasting’ moments between these two characters become more heartfelt.  What you realize is that the direction’s structural process forces you to look pass the obvious lack of characterization and ‘good’ introduction, seeing the ideas make the film a homely experience.  When the climax culminates, certain things become overwhelming, even as the obvious is in your face.  When Hazel realizes truth, she matures within her love, seeing a bigger purpose to the whole aspect of life.  When the film concludes, you get a feeling of awe, but at the same time understand the real purpose of the film’s themes.

The visuals of the film aren’t anything you haven’t seen; typical life as seen through the eyes of a teenager.  The cinematography is grounded to the sense of suburban life, but doesn’t deter from the experience. The score helps add subtle flavor of emotions, but doesn’t feel like the strongest part of the film.

The Faults in Our Stars is a film that might come off as a typical ‘chick flick’, but what it ends up being is more than this commonplace genre.  The two young leads do a good job in commanding purpose on screen, as their relationships mold the emotional overtures of the film.  If you’re a fan of love stories or strong thematic experiences, this is a film for you.  Bring the tissues, you will need them.

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