"Love means never having to say you're sorry". That was the most famous line from "Love Story", the 1970 romantic drama film written by Erich Segal, who also authored the novel with the same name. It starred Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw, as a terminally ill young woman. "Love Story" was possibly the most manipulative and cloying film of all-time. The Mad Magazine takeoff on it is one of the funniest things I have ever read. Yeah, I know I'm dating myself with this observation.
Step aside "Love Story" and make room for the new heavyweight champion of manipulative trash. "The Fault in Our Stars" far outdistances "Love Story" in trying to make its audience sob uncontrollably. You will never see a film that is constructed with so many scenes in a row with the sole purpose of making you to reach for tissues. Granted, it is successful in getting you to cry, but is that enough to make it a worthwhile endeavor? Absolutely not, unless you are a pre-pubescent female, which is definitely the target audience.
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a 16-year-old girl who has Stage 4 thyroid cancer that has metastasized in her lungs, forcing her to carry an oxygen tank with her at all times. She is bright, sarcastic, good-looking, and friendless. She watches kids her own age laughing, running, and falling in love. Hazel envies them, but she is not maudlin about it.
At the urging of her parents, played by Laura Dern and Sam Trammell, and her doctors, she agrees to attend a support group that meets in a church and is led by a goofy guy with a guitar. It's all a waste of time until Augustus "Gus" Waters (Ansel Elgort) first attends in support of a friend of his. Gus is a cancer survivor. Everyone else there is most likely facing a death in the very near future.
Gus is charming and good-looking, and he is relentless - in a sweet way - in his pursuit of Hazel's affections. Love is in the air, despite Hazel trying to block it at every turn. He will be regarded as Mr. Perfect in the eyes of young American girls who will see this film. There are no weaknesses in his armor except for the vulnerabilities that young ladies will find adorable anyway. His frailties will only further enhance why he is a dream partner.
As you can well imagine, a story that deals with young adults suffering from terminal cancer is an ideal backdrop to open those tear ducts enough to flood the aisles at your local theater. Every character is ten steps above noble, except for one. He is Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), the author of a book that Hazel reads over and over. She gets Gus to become a big fan of Van Houten, too. Van Houten is the only one that stands in contrast to the good and noble, by displaying human shortcomings. Sadly, he is not enough to prevent the festival of tears from dominating every scene.
"The Fault in Our Stars" is definitely worth seeing if you are female and between the ages of 12 and 21. Okay, there will be a few young men who may like it or at least claim to like it in front of their girlfriend or date. It will be perceived as a good way to score personality points. If you do not fall within that demographic, avoid this like the plague. Or like terminal cancer. The fault will be yours if you see it.
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