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“The Fault in Our Stars” shines with emotion, depth

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When it comes to the entertainment market for teenagers (specifically teenage girls), certain trends dominate: vampires, bad reality television shows and abundant superficiality. So it’s surprising that a fictional novel about a teenage girl’s struggle with cancer has become such a cultural juggernaut. Published in 2012, John Green’s novel “The Fault in Our Stars” received high critical praise. Last weekend, its film adaptation was released, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as star-crossed lovers dealing with impending death at a far-too-early age.

Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old with thyroid cancer filled with apathy and bitterness toward life. Calling herself a “grenade,” she spends much of her time trying to minimize the emotional damage that will come from her inevitable death. She attends a cancer support group at her mother’s insistence, where she meets the Augustus Waters (Elgort) – a charming and vibrant 18-year-old in remission.

Augustus and Hazel immediately connect. Bonding over Hazel’s love of an obscure novel, they travel to Amsterdam to meet the author. The two young adults share the happiness of new love and the suffering of living with cancer.

Woodley embodies Hazel perfectly, portraying the teenager as exceptionally mature, yet still vulnerable. Augustus is more difficult to portray — he is a character striving to somehow leave a permanent mark on the world. He lives a metaphor, smoking unlit cigarettes. “You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing,” he says.

Augustus’ words could easily be written off as pretentious nonsense, but Elgort gives the character depth by showing the fear and emotions that drive his somewhat outlandish personality.

Laura Dern and Sam Trammell make a powerful impact as Hazel’s parents. Their constant presence in the background as a source of love and support for Hazel is touching, yet heartbreaking.

Overall, the movie is a tearjerker. After seeing it in theaters, an employee stood at the door handing out tissues as we walked out. “The Fault in Our Stars” is so impactful because it portrays beautifully two teenagers dealing with looming death at a time when others their age are discovering just what it means to live.

Being young and terminally ill may seem like the cruelest twist of fate, but Augustus and Hazel’s love story is concerned with the present. As Hazel says, it’s about “a forever within the numbered days.”

This film does absolute justice to the book. Better than any vampire love story, “The Fault in Our Stars” shows the wisdom born from suffering — and it offers the audience a simple message that love, even in the face of inevitable grief, is worth it.


Published June 9, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau







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