A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fault in Our Stars is a tear-jerking love story about two deep-thinking teens with cancer and is based on one of the most beloved young adult books in recent history, by superstar author John Green. Due to the subject matter, it should come as no surprise that the movie can get emotionally intense -- especially when there's a devastating death. The central relationship is beautiful and mature and does lead to a love scene, which is handled tastefully for teen audiences (a girl's naked back and boy's chest are seen). Language is rare but does include one use of "f--k," as well as words like "s--t" and "a--hole." The teen characters drink champagne together, and a key adult supporting character is a drunk who's nearly always sipping from something. Gus also frequently puts unlit cigarettes in his mouth. As long as your teens are ready for all the feelings, sadness, and romance, this is a lovely film to watch with them, especially since Hazel's parents are portrayed so positively (they're supportive, loving, and understanding).
What's the story?
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is about Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a 17-year-old book lover dealing with stage-four metastatic cancer that has spread to her lungs, requiring her to wear a cannula and carry around an oxygen cannister. Her worried but supportive parents (Laura Dern, Sam Trammell) encourage her to attend a local support group for teens with cancer; it's there that she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who can't keep his eyes off her. After group, a clearly interested Gus tells Hazel that she's beautiful and invites her to hang out with him and his best friend, Isaac (Nat Wolff). Hazel is attracted to Gus but is hesitant to start a relationship when she knows she's dying. Ever persistent, Gus sweeps Hazel off her feet when he gives up his one "cancer wish" to make her dream come true: traveling to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author.
Is it any good?
While The Fault in Our Stars isn't a word-for-word translation (nor should it be), it's an adaptation that does Green, Hazel, and Augustus justice. Anyone who's ever loved a book knows the hesitance and wariness that mingle with excitement when a beloved novel is turned into a big-screen production. There's a sense of panic that the director, screenwriter, and cast won't capture everything you love about the words and characters the author created. But fans of the book needn't worry. Woodley, a Golden Globe nominee and veteran of YA adaptations (Divergent, The Spectacular Now), delivers a gentle, wickedly smart Hazel, who feels like a grenade about to go off but eventually realizes that she does deserve to be loved by Gus, even if their future is uncertain.
But as lovely as Woodley is as Hazel, the movie belongs to newcomer Elgort (who co-starred as Woodley's brother in Divergent), who has the tough job of being solicitous, sexy, smart, and sensitive all at the same time. He manages to pull it off beautifully, never letting the character spin out of control or seem false. The supporting characters also deliver laudable performances: Wolff as Gus' blind best friend, and Dern and Trammell as one of the most loving set of parents ever depicted on page or screen. Viewers will experience the wonder of falling in love but also the pain of knowing that someone you adore is dying. Still, to quote Hazel's favorite book, "pain demands to be felt." And feel it you will, which is more than okay.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether The Fault in Our Stars is a successful adaptation. What changes did the filmmakers make, and you do you understand why they made them? What parts of the movie captured the book best, and what parts of the book did you miss not seeing in the movie?
Do you prefer adaptations based on realistic fiction or based on genre fiction, like dystopian/paranormal stories? Why do you think there are so many YA adaptations in the works?
What do you think the author and filmmaker are trying to say about literature and our relationship to books? Do books and movies need a happy ending to make them good or worthwhile? What are some other tales that don't end as you expected but are still among your favorite movies or books?
How does the movie depict sex? How is it different here from how it's often portrayed in other teen movies/books? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: June 6, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 16, 2014
- Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe
- Director: Josh Boone
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book characters
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
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