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IN SHORT: A great love story. [Rated PG-13. minutes]
Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is sixteen years old. Something called a metastasized papillary thyroid cancer almost killed her when she was about eleven but a newly developed medication has held the disease in check for several years. She has to lug a small tank of oxygen wherever she goes, to help her to breathe. Hazel's momma Frannie (Laura Dern) and daddy Michael (Sam Trammell) know their daughter is living on borrowed time. They know there is only so much they can do to help their pride and joy. One of those ways involves getting Hazel to attend a support group for teens with cancer at the local St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Before I write another word: This movie is not about cancer. This movie is not another "live every day as if it is your last day" movie. [I'm quoting the production notes because they are properly to the point.] Yes, it is one of those "first love" stories but it succeeds since yours Cranky didn't tap his foot trying to figure out which kidlet was going to snuff it first and/or before or after they had sex.
There Hazel meets the necessary love interest. A year older and built like a high school jock, that would be Augustus "Gus" Waters (Ansel Elgort), who insists on addressing the year younger lady by her proper name, Hazel Grace. Gus has survived his cancer bout -- something called Osteosarcoma, resulting in the amputation of a leg. Gus is in the groups supporting a third teen, named Isaac (Nat Wolff), who has lost one eye to cancer and is about to lose the the second. Not mentioned, and to the script's credit, is the obvious placement of a nice Jewish boy in the basement of a christian church. That's two gold stars for The Fault in Our Stars; Cancer doesn't give a crap about religion and those facing mortal termination will go wherever necessary to get the emotional support they need.
Cranky writes from experience. This is what our broken neck looks like. We've also been paralyzed four different ways and had that near death experience that's all the rage nowadays. Most films that touch on these kinds of traumatic medical experiences are impossible for me to sit through. We did try to leave our screenng of The Fault in Our Stars but our legs wouldn't work to get us out of the theater seat. So we stuck it out. It was the right decision (sic).
As that friendship begins, Gus and Hazel Grace swap copies of their favorite books.Gus gives Hazel something called "The Price of Dawn", Hazel's offers up "An Imperial Affliction," by a reclusive American author Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), who lives in Amsterdam. Hazel has been writing to Van Houten for, like, ever via snail and eMail and never comes a reply. Gus, on the other hand, receives an email from Van Houten's assistant; Lidewij (Lotte Verbeek) who pass on the author's dismissive comment "I won't write answers to questions because that would mean writing a sequel. If you are ever in Amsterdam, drop by."
That kind of a trip is far beyond the Lancaster family's means, both medical and financial. So Gus pays for it -- we blinked and missed the "how is this possible" part -- and the pair, with mom as chaperone, head off for a three day wonderful weekend.
Not even close. Not for any of the obvious reasons that you would guess from what little background we've provided. From here on out, any teenboy would dismiss The Fault in Our Stars as a chickflick to be endured on a date. For the adult readers, The Fault in Our Stars is a terrific story of how a relationship can fully develop on borrowed time. We apologize for the well worn metaphor but the film is what it is.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Fault in our Stars, he would have paid . . .
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