Recently: “The Fault in Our Stars”

IMG_0298-0.JPGThis year alone there seems to be no shortage of film adaptations of books. Some you may have heard of, others not until the news of the film came about. Either way, nothing is as important as pleasing the fan base, which everyone knows is not something you can always do. However, when a films fan base seems to be driving the majority of love for the film adaptation, before it even comes out, there’s an even higher expectation than usual.

With the 20th Century Fox film “The Fault in Our Stars”, the hype, from fans and critics alike, may have actually been spot on.

This romance drama stars Shailene Woodley (“Divergent”, “The Spectacular Now”), Ansel Elgort (“Divergent”, “Carrie”), Laura Dern (upcoming “Wild”, “When the Game Stands Tall”), Sam Trammell (“Things People Do”, “True Blood”), Nat Wolff (“Behaving Badly”, “Palo Alto”) and Willem Dafoe (“Pasolini”, “A Most Wanted Man”).

The film was directed by Josh Boone (“Stuck in Love”) and written by Scott Neustadter (“The Spectacular Now”, “(500) Days of Summer”) and Michael H. Weber (“The Spectacular Now”, “(500) Days of Summer”). It is based on the novel of the same name by John Green.

The film was released in theaters on June 6, 2014.

Seldom do I go the route of the impulse buy, as it could prove to be a bad move, but here I’m glad I did. Due to Redbox not having it in its machines yet, it was either wait a few weeks or figure out which version of the film to buy. So, I chose the simple version and impulsively purchased a film I now see as one I fell in love with instantly.

Everyone knows that chemistry between characters is important. Without it, one could end up with stiff, unbelievable performances like that seen in “Divergent” and countless other films. For a film with romance at the center, it’s even more important. Fortunately there was plenty of it, from everyone.

While Woodley and Elgort are the central characters and make up the majority of the film, they actually have to rely on the supporting players. Woodley’s characters parents not only had a connection, you’d expect of those types of characters, but also a great relationship with their daughter. It was easy to understand how they all got along together and not just because of the cancer. I really enjoyed a lot of the interactions as there was pretty much every emotion that connected them all together and allowed for honesty to come through.

While Wolff may not have had a lot of screen time, the time he was there, he meshed perfectly with Woodley and Elgort. He brought a lot of energy to, another sick kid, and that made it all work. His being around wasn’t just another subplot, but a way to take a break from the overall romantic story. To ground it in a different bit of reality than just cancer. When they were all hanging out, I pretty much forgot about the illnesses they each had, and saw three people hanging out and helping another through a tough moment in life. Humor and laughter, thankfully, flowed from these interactions too, whether through well written dialogue or the way a scene played out.

And, lastly, but certainly not least, were Woodley and Elgort. They had to have the most chemistry, otherwise this film wouldn’t have been even remotely worth watching. Every kind of emotion that you expect from a budding romance and through to the fully formed love, is experienced. I’m never in doubt with these two. Somehow they pulled off an incredible level of believability that only made me want to see more. It’s part of the reason, I believe, that I was able to laugh and enjoy every experience they had. I didn’t get all teary, maybe a wee bit misty eyed, but I certainly felt the proper amount of sadness towards these characters, even if the dramatic moment was smaller than some. Afterwards, I just couldn’t believe that I was so wrapped up in a love story that’s fictional, and not some sort of home movie. I must say there was some kind of impact felt.

There is a brief thing I want to say about the acting. These characters were all allowed to develop pretty slowly and become very interesting people. It’s because of this character development, and acting skills overall, that I felt this film managed to avoid being some sort of soap opera or overdramatic film. With this type of film it most certainly could’ve been a silly and ridiculous love story with sick people at its core. Thankfully not.

I love that there was still the humor and wit between all the characters. While it did seem slightly different, as a whole, from the book, it was still in the right amount and perfect to allow for some familiar connection with the characters. They weren’t just characters with good chemistry, but ones that seemed more like friends, or at the very least, remind you of someone you know. And, of course, the humor and wit kept this film from being a flat out dramatic cancer story, which probably would’ve made for an annoying, and far more depressing experience, in film and on paper.

One thing I was most definitely surprised by, was the usage of songs in the film. They weren’t just there to transition moments and fill silence, but to add emotion to the film. Sure the score still did this too, but there were certain moments that fit perfectly into the film with the use of songs. It’s also not just because now you understand why these songs appear on the soundtrack or where in the movie they show, however brief it could be, but how they’re used. Sometimes songs serve no purpose.

Romantic films are probably the worst genre of film to make. Particularly when it’s always been polluted by sappy rom-coms. Nothing ruins the romantic notion like a silly romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson or Jennifer Lopez, no matter how entertaining they may be. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the rom-com, but never before have I truly found a romance film, especially a drama, that’s fun and executed so well. There weren’t just dramatic moments, but plenty of heart and humor, especially when you think you’ll be weighted down by the overall cancer storyline. To me, there’s a new feeling of hope for the romantic drama film. However, that being said, I don’t think I’ll be falling in love with “The Way We Were” anytime soon. Let’s just dismiss that idea right now.


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