Fault in Our Stars: Love Story for Our Times?

the_fault_in_our_stars_posterThe new romantic melodrama, “The Fault in Our Stars,” based upon the bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and ultimately tragic elements of the love shared by two extraordinary teenagers.

Shailene Woodley, the current Hollywod “It” girl, plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, who, like other teenagers of her generation, alternately loves and tolerates her overbearing.  Hazel has developed a crush on a young man, Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who seems equally smitten with her.  As they grow closer, Hazel and Gus share fears associated with their health issues, as well as their love of books, including Hazel’s touchstone, “An Imperial Affliction.”

She has tried to get in touch with the book’s reclusive author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), but to no avail. Things change, however, when Gus reaches Van Houten through the author’s assistant, which leads to an invitation to meet the writer in Amsterdam. Gus is determined to take Hazel on a journey that will answer every question about the meaningful book.

The film depicts Hazel and Gus as bright adolescents, who share acerbic wit, disdain for everything conventional, and all-embracing love that sweeps them on an unforgettable journey.  Their relationship gets an extra-edge due to the particular context: they had met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

Apart from Hazel’s friendship with Gus and Isaac, her world is very small ad limited.  Due to the restrictions placed upon her by her illness, Hazel spends much of her time with her parents, Frannie (played by Laura Dern) and Michael (Sam Trammell).

Though 22, Woodley plays credibly a teenager whos 16, due to the fact that she is such a wonderfully fresh presence, an actress on the verge of major stardom without being burdened yet by the extra baggage of actorish mannerisms and estbalished screen image.

It may be the firts time in history that Hollywood’s most bankable stars are women, headed by Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), who is pushing 50, Angelina Jolie (“Maleficent”), who’s pushing 40, Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Men,” X-Men”) who is 24, and Woodley (“Divergent” and now “Fault in Our Stars”).

In the past, critics tended to label and dismiss “debased” fare such as “Fault in Our Stars” as a weepie or woman’s picture.  But to the credit of this movie, it should be said that it doens’t pretend to be anything else than what it is: an old-fashioned melodrama adapted to the mores of our times.  The goal of this unabashedly sentimental picture is to make viewers not just shed a tear or two, but to weep and cry out loud.