Unlike many people I know, I had never heard of John Green when I first read The Fault in Our Stars back in 2012. All I knew was that countless magazines and blogs were already hailing it as a modern classic, so I picked up a copy and began to read. Like so many of you, I fell in love with the story that was inside.
Even though I consider myself somewhat of an aficionado of young adult literature, I had never encountered a story quite like that of Hazel and Augustus. Most books I had read, if they featured a person with cancer at all, that person was old, or already dead, or disappeared from the narrative after their diagnosis. But here was a story that unflinchingly faced the harsh realities that many young people with cancer face, and yet, it wasn’t about their sickness – it was about their love.
I guess for those of you (are there even any?) who haven’t read the book, I should give a quick overview. Hazel Grace Lancaster, the teenage narrator, meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. He’s in remission, she’s stable but has an uncertain future, and they’re both tired of cancer clichés. They fall in love…and for the rest, you’ll have to watch the film (or better yet, read the book!)
I loved the novel, and after viewing a press screening last weekend, I can pretty much guarantee that almost all fans are going to enjoy this film. I’m one of those people who still becomes livid when talking about all of the ways the Harry Potter films messed up the books, so you can trust me when I say that the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars is not a letdown. In fact, pretty much the only way I can see a fan not enjoying this film is if they are particularly set against either of the leads, Shailene Woodley or Ansel Elgort. And if you are, I’m going to try and convince you not to be.
Despite the fact that some misguided release timing means that you may be seeing Woodley and Elgort play star-crossed lovers just a few weeks after you watched them play brother and sister in that other YA movie adaptation, Divergent, the each manages be completely compelling in their roles.
Shailene’s praises have been sung by John Green himself, and it’s hard to argue with his assessment. Her transformation into Hazel is utter and complete, and she manages to be totally captivating wearing cannula and sweat pants. (I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie geared towards teens that focuses on a heroine’s personal journey rather than her hot bod. Even when the heroine is saving the world, movies seem to never want us to forget that “Oh, btw, she’s totes hot.” This was a welcome change.) Shailene’s performance is radiant. Still, I have to admit that, for me, it was Elgort that really stole the show – his Augustus was enough to make you fall a little (or a lot…) in love not just with him, but with life, with youth, with hope. (My god that smile! He is just everything.) And if both Woodley and Elgort amaze on their own, together they will completely blow you away.
Of course, I can’t continue this review without also giving a nod to Nat Wolff, who plays Augustus’s friend Isaac, who – despite the fact that he is about to lose his eye to cancer – is often a superb comic foil, and his own emotional turmoil feels true to the viewer. He must have impressed Green too, since Wolff is now slated to star in the big screen adaptation of another of Green’s novels, Paper Towns.
As with any adaptation, there are some moments from the book that don’t make it into the film, but as I read the book close to three years ago, the ones I noticed were few and far between. I know that won’t be enough for some of you, but I hope the loud sobbing of my fellow theater-goers (…and my boyfriend) means that you won’t miss those moments too much. The movie, just like the book, has got heart in spades, and is not-to-be-missed this summer.