The Fault in Our Stars (dir. Josh Boone)

Posted: July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

“The Fault in Our Stars” doesn’t translate to the big screen as well as I had hoped, considering how much I enjoyed the novel. The film is fairly faithful and most of the big moments are translated to the screen…but perhaps that’s the point. The film shows us the big moments as if checking off a teenage fan-girl list, but it doesn’t make those moments come alive, feel authentic, or hit home with their power. Watching the film is like watching a through-the-motions school play of the book with a far better cast than such a play would get.

The problem is with the direction. There’s no way to get around the fact that the film is shot like made-for-tv movie: too many close-ups and bright primary colors, not enough hard edges or nuance to make the film a real lived-in MOVIE, rather than some sort of pageant. The movie is just too, I dunno, SOFT. The film turns a book full of intelligence and emotion into a film of easy emotional manipulation, and a focus on an unreal niceness which is distracting, and makes dying of cancer look far too pretty and safe.

The film does come alive in some scenes. The Anne Frank house scene works pretty well, up until the “oh gee” looks of people following the big kiss, and the initial scene with Peter Van Houten has enough sharp edges to feel like it comes from an altogether different film. And I don’t mean to make the film sound horrible, because it’s quite enjoyable while you’re watching it. But do we need a close-up of the waiter in the Amsterdam restaurant giving a oh-you-cute-kids look while he serves our protagonists champagne? He’s not one of the book’s fawning 12-year-old girls, so don’t make him, and most of the supporting characters, look and act like one. The director has turned a book which felt real into a movie that feels like it spends every moment pandering to the book’s dumbest fans. The book was an excellent example of what the YA genre can do. The film makes the book look like what every hater of YA fiction thinks all YA book are. That is a cardinal sin, and a major setback for the acceptance of YA as legitimate literature.

Shailene Woodley is pretty much pitch-perfect as Hazel. She is the best thing in the film, and the one thing in the film that works perfectly. Lauren Dern and Willem Dafoe also do superb jobs in their roles. Really, the only member of the cast who doesn’t really work is Ansel Elgort as Augustus. He plays the character a bit too flippantly and cocky than is required, so that he comes off as an asshole when the audience should be falling for him. There’s a reason i cried while reading the book, but nary a tear was shed during the film, and it’s Elgort. He’s not a bad actor, he just took the wrong approach to his character, and it nearly capsizes the film.

But the fault in this film not living up to its source material lies solely on the shoulders of director Josh Boone. While this film would have really come alive if directed by, say, Cameron Crowe or Joss Whedon, Boone simply doesn’t have the chops. I fear for his rumored adaptation of Stephen Kinf’s “The Stand”. From what I’ve seen here, Boone has just enough talent to direct Lifetime movies, and not an ounce more.

I guess we can hope a better director gets the rights to “Looking for Alaska”. B-.

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