Articles, Film Reviews

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

One of the complaints I hear most often about films that deal with disability and/or illness is that the characters with these traits are defined primarily by their limitations. That they are so consumed by stereotypical identities, coming off as “crude, one-dimensional, and simplistic.” While this is not the case with The Fault in Our Stars, the film makes no refreshing effort to stray away from the clichés, as it mainly exists to manipulate our tear ducts.

The film tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), an intelligent teenager that keeps mostly to her self. Because of this, her mother encourages her to get out of the house and meet new people. Enter Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an outgoing and generally positive boy who begins to bond with Hazel over similar interests.

What I’m deliberately leaving out is the fact that Hazel has terminal thyroid cancer and Augustus is a survivor of osteosarcoma that costs him his right leg. While these facts affect the nature of their relationship, it is the chemistry of Hazel and Augustus that shines the most. And if there were anything that deserves a significant amount of praise, such praise would belong to Woodley and Elgort for their performances.

There are two major grievances I have with The Fault in Our Stars. First off, the film felt overwhelmed by moments made to evoke tears. Maybe I felt this way from frequently hearing about how saddening the story is. But many scenes seemed intended only to promote an emotional response regardless of how central they were to the overall picture. After all, whenever this film comes up in conversation, I never hear anything about the actual plot but instead about the quantity of tears it conjures.

My second objection is with the film’s runtime. At just over two hours in length, the film wears out its welcome as it passes the 90-minute mark. While cutting scenes would have helped with this, fans of the original book would have been upset. And this is unfortunate, because most of the film’s best material comes during the latter half. But it is definitely too long for its own good, a fault that lies in its script.

Perhaps I’m being too rough on the film. But apart from being well acted, there isn’t a whole lot about the film that is unique. Maybe I’m just upset because I didn’t cry like the majority of viewers. If that’s the case, so be it. I’m sure Hazel would not have found the film appealing either.


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