THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Josh Boone). 125 minutes. Opens Friday (June 6). See listings. Rating: NNNN
Tickets for The Fault In Our Stars should come with a packet of tissues. Lord knows you’ll need it when watching this faithful and heart-wrenching adaptation of John Green’s young adult bestseller.
Teen cancer survivors Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort) meet at a support group, flirt and are soon sharing their favourite books and opening up about their fears and desires. Gus is smitten, but hard realist Hazel is more cautious, not wanting anyone to get too close because she doesn’t know how much time she has.
When they learn the author of Hazel’s favourite book is in Amsterdam, they decide to visit him (enter a suitably crusty Willem Dafoe) to answer some questions, a journey that adds a couple of twists to their relationship and the story.
Along the way, there are darkly funny, clear-eyed observations about living with cancer, including how it affects your relationship with time, your parents and those you choose to love. Gus, a former star basketball player, has a prosthetic leg, while Hazel wears a cannula and needs a portable oxygen tank to breathe.
Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who brought a quiet dignity to the young characters in The Spectacular Now, which also starred Woodley, capture the bittersweet tone of the book, and even Hazel’s voice-over narration isn’t over-used.
Director Josh Boone paces the film beautifully, and gets inspired performances by his cast, even when their parts (I’m thinking of Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents) aren’t fully sketched. And a scene in the Anne Frank Haus, which in lesser hands could be in bad taste, comes across as complex and layered.
The character of Gus is a little too perfect, but Elgort sells it with a magnetic charm and smile that’s balanced out by a soulful vulnerability in the final reel. And Woodley, who’s emerging as one of the finest actors of her generation, never tries to make Hazel lovable or even attractive, which of course makes her both.
The emo soundtrack underscores key moments but never in a sloppy way, and even text messages are given a cute stylish fillip by appearing as cartoon-like bubbles in these people’s lives.
Just remember the kleenex.