"The Fault in our Stars" is a about young romance growing under the dark cloud of cancer, based on the best-selling book by John Green. On the one hand, it's fairly predictable stuff, but it's also brutally honest about the disease, never sensationalizing it or those who suffer from it.
I immediately connected with Shailene Woodley as Hazel, a teenager with thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs. In a therapy group, she meets Augustus, played by Woodley's "Divergent" co-star Ansel Elgort. The two develop a friendship that starts to blossom into something else, despite her efforts to spare him pain by trying to end it early.
The dialogue between these teens is smart, witty and frank without wading into "Juno" ultra hip territory. There are also moments of shattering truth as the characters consider death. I especially love Laura Dern as Hazel's mom, trying to stay brave.
The problem I have with the movie is its view of gender roles. Despite his charming exterior, Gus is controlling and kind of manipulative, even if he doesn't realize it. Everything is on his terms. He calls Hazel by the name he prefers, he frequently makes her come to his house to hang out, and wait til you hear what he tells her the morning after he gets her in the sack. He's kinda terrible.
But we're to believe Gus is making Hazel a better person through it all. Based on a book written by a man and adapted by men for the screen, this is a movie that seems to show that all this young woman needs to have hope and a fresh outlook on life is the right man.
Despite that nagging annoyance, I actually like "The Fault in our Stars" as an above average romantic weepie. It's charming and also sincere about its dire subject matter. The final thirty minutes drags, but there's plenty to admire about it - especially the performances from the two leads.
There's no fault in those stars.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * *
Out of five stars