I got crazy lucky and got to see an early screening “The Fault in Our Stars” before it hits theaters this Friday, June 6th. For those of you who haven’t heard of “The Fault in Our Stars” (How did you do this? Were you living on a tiny island with no other humans or an Internet connection?) the film is based on the bestselling young adult novel (like it has 10 million copies in print and has spent 130 consecutive weeks on the New York Times best seller list, like THAT kind of bestselling) written by now-household-name author John Green.
“The Fault in Our Stars” (known as TFIOS by its super-fans) tells the story of Hazel and Gus, two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. Hazel, who has terminal cancer, carries around an oxygen tank at all times. Gus lost a leg to cancer. Though the two teenagers are brought together by their disease, they find that they have a true connection that goes beyond their shared illness, a connection based on a mutual love of witty banter and hardcore philosophizing. When Gus finds out that Hazel’s biggest dream is to meet her favorite author Peter Van Houten and find out what happens after his novel “An Imperial Affliction” stops mid-sentence, Gus pulls out all the stops out and gets the two over to Amsterdam (where Van Houten lives) to get Hazel’s questions answered.
In case you were wondering if the love for this book is going to equal love for this film, “The Fault in Our Stars” film trailer currently has 19 million views and is, to date, the most “liked” video in YouTube history. The film is projected to make $35 million dollars its opening weekend (almost three times its $12 million budget). So I think I’m in the safe zone when I say this movie is going to be ginormous hit
It’s easy to be scared off by something with this much hype. I always want the next movie I see to be “my favorite movie of the year” or “THE BEST MOVIE EVER” and when I go in with these stratospheric expectations (and I’m such a Pollyanna of a moviegoer, I can’t help but go in with the highest of hopes) I’m constantly finding myself slammed straight back to earth by problematic, mediocre, or outright bad movies.
It’s basically a unicorn of a movie that can live up to its hype and “The Fault in Our Stars” is that rainbow-maned, pearly-horned magical beast of a film. “The Fault in Our Stars” stands alongside “The Notebook” and “Titanic” as being one of the best big screen romances in modern movie history. The casting is perfection. Shailene Woodley as our heroine Hazel Lancaster is basically the Second Coming of Meryl Streep, and Ansel Elgort as her star-crossed love, Augustus Waters, is like if “Titanic”-era Leonardo DiCaprio and “Notebook”-era Ryan Gosling had a prankster/philosopher younger brother that was RAPIDLY gaining on his older brothers in cuteness. The script (scribed by “500 Days of Summer” and “The Spectacular Now” writing team Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber) smartly and faithfully adapts the story for the screen. Director Josh Boone presides over this film like a maestro presides over a world-class symphony. Every note is exactly right.
For me, acting, writing, directing, that’s the holy trinity of filmmaking, that’s what I’m watching for when I’m watching a movie. What blew me away about this film was how much it made me care about elements I’m usually much less interested in. I was so impressed with the cinematography, editing, production design, costuming, lighting, scoring. I was even impressed with the SOUND EDITING, and I NEVER care about the sound editing, that’s the category I always lose in on my Oscar party ballot because I never remember how the sound was edited in a movie, never. It’s a remarkable piece that can make you appreciate elements you almost always ignore. And I’m not saying this is a movie where every element is flashy and showy and fighting for your attention. I’m saying every element works so hard to serve the story that it’s telling, and it is that pure and noble effort that makes every part of the film shine so brightly.
I knew I was going to cry in this movie (I cry just thinking about sentences from the book. OK? OK.) But what shocked me to my core was how much I laughed while watching this film. “The Fault in Our Stars” constantly goes back and forth between busting your gut and breaking your heart. Like the book, the film is completely uninterested in milking the potential melodrama of its premise. It wants to give you a full and human experience. It is two hours that leaves your sides sore from laughing, your cheeks aching from smiling, and your face wet with all the tears that came so fast you never had time to brush them away.
I almost wish I had something to complain about. Criticism would make this review feel more balanced. The last thing I want to be is a fangirl who is all compliments and no credibility. But it would be dishonest to try to manufacture criticism when I have nothing major (or even minor) to complain about. Sometimes, not always or even often, but sometimes a movie is perfect from start to finish. Every once in a long, long, long while, a movie lives up to its hype. A billion congratulations to “The Fault in Our Stars” for being just as wonderful as I so wanted it to be.