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New Release Review - The Fault in our Stars

Romance blossoms between a pair of teenage cancer survivors.

Directed by: Josh Boone
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Sam Trammell




16 year old cancer patient Hazel Grace (Woodley) reluctantly attends a support group meeting in order to placate her well meaning parents (Dern and Trammell). There she meets the highly confident Augustus (Elgort), an 18 year old who beat cancer by having his right leg amputated below the knee and replaced by a mechanical leg. Hazel Grace is immediately won over by Augustus' positive outlook and when she introduces him to her favourite novel, Augustus contacts the book's reclusive author (Dafoe), who invites the pair to visit him in Amsterdam. Hazel Grace's doctor, however, advises her against making the trip, believing it could prove fatal in her condition.
Adapted from John Green's popular novel, The Fault in our Stars arrives in theatres with its share of baggage. The film's detractors point to the inescapable fact that the movie is essentially a product that relies on exploiting cancer in order to make a profit. You would imagine a percentage of the film's takings might be donated to cancer research, but this thought doesn't seem to have thus far crossed the film-makers' minds. The marketing campaign behind the film is particularly cynical, focusing on its "weepie" appeal, with the official twitter account even going so far as to retweet people boasting about selling boxes of tissues outside movie theatres. That same account contains multiple links to help you book movie tickets, purchase merchandise, watch music videos from the bands that feature on the soundtrack etc. What it doesn't feature is a single link to any of the many groups doing great work in attempting to find a cure for the wretched disease.
The motives behind the film's production might be pretty reprehensible, but don't let that put you off; The Fault in our Stars is far from the cynical exercise in exploitation its marketing campaign might have you believe. Rather, it's a commendably sincere and non-patronising take on its difficult subject. Most admirable is how it doesn't resort to demonising the medical profession for the sake of some cheap conflict, unlike so many other movies of its ilk. There are no villains in The Fault in our Stars, merely victims, a brave choice in today's Hollywood of black and white storytelling.
I've failed to see the appeal of Woodley in the past but I'm truly in her corner after witnessing her outstanding work here. Likewise Elgort, who, along with Woodley, was a walking plank in Divergent. Here he resembles a young Jeff Bridges, both in looks and charm (though in an ideal world an actual amputee would have landed the role). Together they're Generation Y's answer to Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw.
You might well have a good cry during TFIOS, but the film never directly tugs at the heartstrings, preferring to celebrate strength rather than beg for sympathy, and that's "okay" with me.
7/10


Eric Hillis

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