The problem with adaptations is that they have to live up to the book. In other words, the movie has to evoke the same or similar emotional response to the novel. The Fault in Our Stars doesn’t. In fact, it isn’t an emotional weepy tear-jerker. It is more along the lines of “Oh lord, stop the cancer metaphors, please.” Director Josh Boone takes a fictional story and tries to bring these characters to life. I mean, tries, not does. Shailene Woodley plays the cancer-stricken Hazel and Ansel Elgort is the cancer survivor and love interest, Gus, who has a prosthetic leg. This film revolves around the two of them. But you are left wondering, why? What does the story tell? Is it a message about surviving? Is it about love and life in the face of insurmountable odds? Not really, it is about how important it is to find yourself a boy-friend who can turn an unlit cigarette into a metaphor.
The movie is about a shy, young girl Hazel whose life is a constant series of tests, endless doses of medicines and a portable oxygen tank which has to be lugged around. Quite early in the film, we are introduced to Gus, the love-interest. This is a young man whose outlook on life is intriguing and captures the imagination of Hazel. Soon, the two of them start their own journey into the world of romance. That is the gist of the film. Or atleast the starting. However, the story isn’t heart-rending nor is it in-depth. There are portions of the film which are intentionally created to tug at your heart strings. But it doesn’t. In fact, you will look at the screen, roll your eyes and groan, audibly. And you won’t be the only one. The story of a cancer patient is never a smooth and easy one. It is fraught with emotional upheaval and pain. The film touches upon this in a few places. The movie tries to show you what it might be like to be a teenager struck with this terrible disease, and fails. You aren’t left with sympathy but rather annoyance. Each person reacts to death or the news of their impending death in different ways, agreed, but here Hazel is shown to be a person with a rather bleak and grey view of life. In the middle of this we are shown Gus. Through him, Hazel learns to live and take pleasure in the simple things. Is that the truth? Are we that gullible? The worst portions of death and dying is the fact we are all going to be alone. What we do with the time that we have is called living. The movie just skips right over this. All we get is the story of a confused and “supposedly-depressed” cancer patient who is just waiting for the right guy.
As the movie draws to a close, there will be scenes which might make you tear up. I didn’t. I couldn’t. The predictability of the emotional scenes don’t create cinema, they just make you feel that you are watching an after-school special with the standard scenes. There aren’t any twists or even shocks to the system. Overall you are left with a feeling of just “meh”.
Why should you watch this film?
The movie is an attempt at making a teenage relevant story come to life on the screen. In the end, it is an attempt. If you are fan of the book, you might enjoy the film or you might hate it. You can even compile a list of errors or discrepancies between the book and the film. You will enjoy seeing Willem Dafoe but he just doesn’t get enough screen time. All in all, either you will cry till your eyes turn bloodshot or you will roll your eyes till you strain them.