“Fault” Avoids Most of its Genre’s Pitfalls
Director Josh Boone had his work cut out for him with having to bring The Fault on Our Stars to the big screen. Not only did he have a rabid fan base to answer to, but had to navigate the many pitfalls inherent to the tragic love story genre. Having not read the best-selling novel by John Green, I cannot speak to whether the director remained faithful to the text but not detecting a massive hew and cry on the internet regarding this issue tells me he toed the line. As far as rendering the many potentially melodramatic moments in an overly-dramatic fashion, for the most part Boone is successful though it must be said he’s helped immensely by Shailene Woodley who’s able to convey a sense of truth in the most ridiculous of circumstances.
Dealing with cancer as a teenager Hazel Grace (Woodley) has developed a realistic and only slightly cynical attitude towards her condition. She’s as positive as she possibly can be and is weary of making any emotional connections what with the tragic nature of her condition. However, she’s unable to resist the charm of Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), another cancer victim she meets at a support group she reluctantly attends. Despite her apprehension, Hazel allows herself to enter into a relationship and fall in love with this young man who eagerly embraces life despite having lost a leg to his disease.
The story that develops is predictable in structure as the couple go through highs and lows, dealing primarily with issues of trust and testing their relationship by taking a trip, an improbable journey to Amsterdam which leads to the most effective scene in the film. Though covering familiar territory, Boone adopts a slow pace in telling his tale, which nearly undercuts the entire enterprise. However, a nice twist involving a reclusive author (Willem Defoe) Hazel and Gus admire and meet adds a much-needed spark before the movie heads to its predictable, tragic conclusion.
If anything, the film is saved by Woodley who, like her peer Jennifer Lawrence, seems incapable of delivering a false moment on screen. She is fully present throughout, underplaying the movie’s most emotional scenes, thus bringing maturity to the role that makes Hazel’s tragic circumstances all the more moving. Woodley is our focal point throughout and that we’re forever looking past Elgort to focus on her speaks to how much better the actress is than the other young performers who share the screen with her.
Fault likely will not take its place alongside cinema’s classic love stories though for the Tweeting-generation, it will speak to their notion of what devotion and romance should be.