The Fault in Our Stars, Review

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Star: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Sam Trammell, Laura Dern, Lotte Verbeek, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe, Mike Birbiglia.

Although The Fault in Our Stars is categorized as a teen romance, it is above all a cancer-themed melodrama. Cancer provides the butt of the movie’s most caustic jokes, the pull which first draws its star-crossed couple together, and the power which helped the story squeeze its viewers’ tear. This Fox melodrama is so soulfully acted, particularly by a never-better Shailene Woodley.

Based on the bestselling novel of John Green, The Fault in Our Stars offers the first-person accounts of Hazel Grace Lancaster (starred by Woodley), a 16-year-old girl who can hardly remember not living with cancer. Hazel came perilously close to death as a preteen; however, there is an experimental miracle treatment that can beat her cancer disease back to relatively manageable levels: She’s far from helpless, although her lifespan has no clear prognosis.

Her parents (played by Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) are a lovable pair worrying that Hazel is becoming depressed because she has no friends, spending her time rereading the postmodern cancer-themed novel, An Imperial Affliction, by reclusive author Peter Van Houten. Luckily, after some insistently gentle prodding, Hazel agrees to join a church-basement support group hosted weekly by sappy Jesus freak Patrick (starred by Mike Birbiglia).

Here she meets Augustus Waters (starred by Ansel Elgort), a clever, strapping, handsome 18-year-old whose basketball career was canceled as cancer took one of his legs. He is the person who appears to have made a full recovery. He asks Hazel out on a chaste hangout dates series, reads her favorite book, and gradually brings her out of her shell.

A few weeks into their relationship, he brings a big surprise: he’s arranged a trip for them to Amsterdam, where Van Houten (played by Willem Dafoe) has apparently agreed to meet Hazel and answer her questions about his book.

It’s in Amsterdam where the film visually opens up and Augustus and Hazel forge their most affecting connections.