This time last year, cinemas all over the world were flooded with tissue-bearing teenagers who were all poised and ready to see John Green’s bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars brought to life on the big screen by newcoming director Josh Boone (Stuck in Love). Despite its awkward pacing and occasional cringe-worthy moments, the film perfectly captured the bittersweet nature that made the book such a success.
The film adapts its source material to great effect; the equally heartbreaking and heart-warming story is told through the eyes of protagonist Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley) whose whole life has revolved around her cancer diagnosis to the extent that she seems to have no life outside her home, hospital and her love for the novel An Imperial Affliction which orientates around a young girl suffering from cancer. Her mother (Laura Dern) insists on Hazel attending a weekly support group which she does so to despise. However, she soon literally runs into Augustus ‘Gus’ Waters (Ansel Elgort) which ignites an interest. Depicted as your typical strappingly gorgeous romantic lead, Gus is a seventeen year old, ex-basketball playing amputee. Seemingly recovered of his cancer, he is looking to live a memorable life and wants to take Hazel and her oxygen tank along for the ride.
Despite coming across as an original film, The Fault in Our Stars has some obvious Shakespearean influences which is evident in the title. Taken from Act One, Scene Two of Julius Caeser, Cassius says to Brutus: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” In addition, the romance between the star-crossed lovers Hazel and Gus is effectively doomed from the start, much like the relationship portrayed in Romeo and Juliet. The film uses these intertextual influences to its advantage, being two steps ahead of its audience with the knowledge that tears will be drawn if the threat of the star-crossed lovers being separated is even hinted at. Boone, with the help of Green’s beautiful written word, keeps the audience where he wants them and is very smart in taking advantage of his power.
Unlike most films with cancer as their main thematic points, The Fault in Our Stars keeps it light hearted, even in its darkest moments. With the comedy being slick, it seems to be the kind of comedy that Hazel Grace would enjoy so it doesn’t seem scripted as Woodley performs her lines.
Currently a teen icon following her roles in Divergent and The Spectacular Now, Woodley’s performance is perfect, surpassing her co-stars including Elgort who comes across as wooden and tense. However, the two still deliver enough on-screen chemistry to create a believable relationship that the audience can indulge in.
The pacing of the film seems a little off and somewhat awkward at times, especially towards the end when it starts to feel rushed. It begins to bombard the audience with intensely emotional scenes in an effort to draw tears but as a result, this effort makes the concluding scenes contrived, taking away from the reality of its characters.
Set for UK release on Friday 21st August 2015, Paper Towns is John Green’s next big screen adaptation a year on from the release of The Fault in Our Stars.