Copyright © 2014 by 20th Century Fox
Suffering from severe thyroid cancer, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is made to join a support group by her mother, Frannie (Laura Dern) for fear the illness may sink her into depression. There, she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) and his blind best friend, Isaac (Nat Wolff). Gus is smitten by Hazel’s beauty and intelligence but Hazel is contented to only remain as friends, wary of moving the relationship further due to her condition. She eventually gives in to Gus’ persistence and begins a romantic journey with him.
We have seen how love stories in the hands of Hollywood usually play out to the masses – (a) a couple meets in the manner most convenient, fall in love and live happily ever after or (b) the pairing will reunite after a long and tiresome misunderstanding which if not treaded carefully can reduce tension built prior only to be apart again by death, ‘unforeseen’ conditions or the end of the world (any of the direction opted is quite a money maker but personally, a beautiful death garners a couple of awards along the way).
It is not to say that they cannot be entertaining or even enriching for the soul. After all, one of the most adored movies of all time is the unforgettable ‘Gone with the Wind’, a sweeping love epic that has everyone echoing the name Scarlett and Rhett’s fervent obsession for the part Irish beauty has become a staple in popular culture. Like so many other reel romances, what separates between the appealing and the appalling is the instant connection the pair of leads form when they first meet on screen.
Extra points are granted if you do not go into glucose overkill from the inanely sweet spewing of what is passed off as real conversation between a man and woman so deeply in love. And there lies in the strengths of ‘Stars’. It follows the tropes of a romantic drama but engaging the best parts of its limited structure, it manages to come out fresh and unabashedly honest. For a film that deals on a serious subject which seemed tailored for a ‘Hallmark’ feature, this is as real as it gets.
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber from the bestselling novel by John Green, we are immediately drawn into Hazel’s acerbic wit that is imbued with the right dose of vulnerability brought about by the talented Ms Woodley. Her grim outlook on life is morosely pleasurable to watch (if you are suffering from a life threatening disease and the book of choice is ‘An Imperial Affliction’, you would be depressed too). Thankfully, the darkness is illuminated with humour interspersed sensitively to retain the essence of a touchy matter.
Rising star Elgort who has been paired up with Woodley before in ‘Divergent’ is comfortable and confident assuming the role of Augustus while Wolff’s mannerisms reminds me of a less excessive Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Even Dern and Sam Trammell are not wasted on their thankless roles as Hazel’s supportive parents. No doubt that its influence is strictly for a very specific group and you will be a wreck come its conclusion (‘Love Story’ anybody?) but is it okay to find solace in the most unlikeliest of circumstances from the many faults our stars are up against? Always.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language