Faithfully adapted from John Green’s already hugely
successful novel, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is the archetypal romantic drama skilfully repackaged for the huge and lucrative ‘young adult’ audience – mostly
TWILIGHT fans who could do without all those dreamy boys being mythical creatures and fighting all the time. Shailene
Woodley plays Hazel, a bright, introverted 16 year-old who has for most of her
life dealt with thyroid cancer, and is already living years beyond anything her doctors predicted. Her well-meaning parents (Laura Dern and
Sam Trammell) nudge her along to a support group, but the only thing there that keeps her awake is an interest in fellow survivor Gus (Ansel Elgort). They spark up a
very close friendship, and when Hazel introduces Gus to her favourite book, he
makes it his mission to get her face to face with its reclusive author.
Woodley gives a strong central performance, with Dern and Trammell offering fine support in real and rounded characters. Sadly (through no fault of his own) the same cannot be said for Elgort; Gus' problems are all on the page: he may have beaten cancer, but he has a terminal case of Manic Pixie Boy. Zany, whimsical, witty and spontaneous? Check. Unusually erudite despite showing no reason for being so? Check. Not existing in the story other than to conveniently serve the needs of the main character? Check. Similarly, Willem Dafoe (seemingly channeling David Mamet) is given a great set-up early on, only to have all of that good work undone by a monumentally preposterous third act contrivance.
These huge clunks in the script are more than enough to bring any good THE FAULT IN OUR STARS achieves crashing down to earth, especially given Hazel’s opening monologue promise that "this is the [non sugar-coated] truth” - it just makes doling out the usual cliches and manipulations which are otherwise part and parcel of the genre seem that little bit more cynical.
At one point Hazel references Cameron Crowe - and that’s probably fair, just not in the way Green or director Josh Boone intended: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is just a blow-your-head-off-amazing soundtrack away from being a mediocre Cameron Crowe film - think WE BOUGHT A ZOO with less animals, more paediatric illness and about the same level of lazy plotting.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is release June 5 in Australia and New Zealand, June 6 in the USA, and June 19 in the UK.