Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars, Or TFIOS if you must use acronyms that sound like a news station, is a good movie.  At certain points a very good one, that captures at least the pacing and feeling of falling in young love that the book, which is a bestseller not unlike in my parents generation say Love Story.  Its got attractive young people who have thoughts that can be expressed outside of just 'I love you'.  That matters.

Its also the sort of movie that, having read the book, I wish was better.  Could it have been great, I don't know.  Its a curious thing seeing how Josh Boone, working from a script by the writers of 500 Days of Summer and the Spectacular Now (also starring Shailene Woodsley), gets the material but is also hampered, or just doesn't stretch far enough, in other respects.  The first half of the movie is about these two young people falling for each other, their meet-cutey-Ness, and dialog that has a slight 'Cool!' humor air like Diablo Cody.  But it works, the actors have chemistry, and the air of light romance and friendship shines through.  In this respect it's almost an improvement (or just a solid adaptation) of the first half of the book.

Where it changes is in the second half, where the drama involving cancer comes back up ten fold, and Boone feels the need to pump up drama with unnecessary (or just typical and schmaltzy) music cues, and this is where it also doesn't do quite the service to the book.  There are scenes that, of course, stand out, like when Hazel Grace has an highly emotional conversation with her parents about dying and her mother (the great Laura Dern) and finally coming to terms with this reality but in straight on, honest terms.  Or anything with Willem Dafoe, especially the scene where the two kids meets this author Dafoe plays and the awkwardness makes Louie seem, well, comparable.

This is just one of those things I suppose that comes with adaptations, some things will be lost and you don't get quite what You picture.  One of the smartest choices is the casting of Woodsley, who is simply one of the most 'on' young actresses working today, with eyes and a face that is loaded always with emotion and depth that speaks to what should be an amazing career to come.  The problem then comes with the casting of Ansel Gort as Augustus.

He is a good actor, competent as Boones direction.  But with a partner like Woodsley and so much of the dramatic stakes hanging on what he can deliver, he's not on her level.  He does give much as he can, like in a third act scene in a car that was an incredible scene in the book.  Its just one of those things of the actor, certainly, looking like a heartthrob (and, May be, letting the attitude, like his leather jacket or unlit metaphorical cigarette do the acting) isn't up to her level.

But it's good.  I know I keep using that word, possibly as a defense mechanism or something, but it is, just that, no more no less for the most part.  It's the antidote and itself a kind of (un?)intentional criticism of Twilight and My Sisters Keeper when it comes to sappy teen romance and kids-with-cancer melodramas.  And its no wonder that it will be a gigantic hit with its major audience.  Just not great.  It's the kind of movie that features a sorta inspirational sorta hmm scene where the lead couple kiss in the Anne Frank house and everyone else kisses around them, and its without any question of its sincerity.

John Green with cast

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