Quirks in ‘Fault’ keep it apart from cancer movie cliches

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, June 4, 2014 5:38pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The people behind “The Fault in Our Stars” take great pains to make it clear that this is not going to be that kind of movie. We are warned about the clichés of the cancer film, and how this is definitely not that.

I can’t say this movie really avoids all those conventions, but it creates enough unusual detours to justify its existence. Based on a bestselling novel by John Green, the film takes a couple of ailing teenagers and puts them in an offbeat love story.

Hazel Grace Lancaster is 17 and an unlikely survivor of an aggressive form of cancer. She’s on an experimental drug that has extended her life — for how long, nobody knows — but also makes it difficult for her to breathe without her oxygen machine.

At a survivor group, she meets 18-year-old Augustus Waters, who lost a leg to cancer but is otherwise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The romance that follows isn’t too ground-breaking, but setting it against some necessary conversations about what death means and what life is all about gives the story an undeniable poignancy.

There’s also a subplot about Hazel’s devotion to a cult novel she adores. She and Augustus will get the chance to travel to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author (Willem Dafoe) of the book.

The fact that this trip doesn’t turn out the way anybody planned is part of the oddball rhythm of the film. Yes, there are a few too many bittersweet pop anthems on the soundtrack, and a few too many teen-angst moments, but mostly these are outweighed by a goodly serving of quirk.

Hazel and Augustus are played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, respectively. They previously played sister and brother in “Divergent,” and they’re both pleasant performers — even if he seems too goofy to romance her observant, alert skeptic.

Laura Dern and Sam Trammell play Hazel’s parents, and Nat Wolff is fun as a teenager whose eyesight loss is, to say the least, played a bit lightly.

Director Josh Boone doesn’t skim over any of this; at 125 minutes, the movie takes time to explore the kinds of questions teenagers might have in a messed-up situation like this.

I didn’t believe all those scenes, but quite a few of them clicked. Along with its credible stars, that’s enough to predict that “Fault” is going to find its target audience, big time.

“The Fault in Our Stars” (3 stars)

A better-than-average teen tearjerker, about two cancer patients (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) and their growing relationship. The film, adapted from John Green’s novel, has just enough attitude and quirk to distinguish it from the usual run.

Rating: PG-13 for language, subject matter

Opens: Friday at Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.

Talk to us

More in Life

abstract background from a grass covered with hoarfrost
How cold is too cold for the Northwest garden? It depends

Overnight temperatures in the teens, and daytime highs that don’t exceed the mid-20s, can spell doom if gardeners don’t take action.

The GPP for this Friday is Blechnum spicant, commonly called deer fern, and the image credit goes to Richie Steffen.
Great Plant Pick: Deer fern

This native fern is an excellent choice for the woodland garden. And despite (or maybe because of?) its name, it’s resistant to deer.

November was a trying month for PUD crews and customers

A generator, if you live in a rural area and can afford one, will likely come in handy at some point in the winter.

Photo Caption: There's finding a toy in your food packaging, and then there's making a toy from the packaging. Towle's Log Cabin brand provided a rolling platform to turn their iconic syrup tin into a pull toy.
Advertising was targeted at kids back in Grandpa’s day, too

This Log Cabin Express toy transformed into a toy after its days as a pancake syrup dispenser were finished.

Caption: The eternal fragrance of bath products triggers memories from long ago. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Bath product fragrances are full of memories

A Costco-size bottle of Neutrogena Rainbath takes the author back to the carefree days of seventh grade

In Turkey, it's easy to meet locals in a mosque and learn more about Islam.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Experiencing Islamic traditions in Turkey

Ramadan is perhaps the best time to travel to the country where the Islamic world meets the Christian world.

These tips can help you nurture a positive outlook on life

No one likes to be negative. Yet some adults can’t help but see their cup as half full.

The 2021 Lexus RX 350 luxury midsize SUV is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. (Manufacturer photo)
Lexus RX 350 luxury SUV gains new standard features for 2021

Wireless charging and a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert are included.

2022 Genesis GV70 Sport Prestige (Genesis)
2022 Genesis GV70 Sport Prestige

Luxury SUV’s just got cooler with the introduction of the 2022 Genesis GV70.

Most Read