This is “Love Story” with not one but two adorable young people dying of cancer. It’s good for a cry, provided you feel like crying. If you don’t, it’s drippy.
Though manipulative to the max, the movie gets a lot of street cred from the fine acting of Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Woodley is Hazel Grace Lancaster, an extraordinarily candid teen whose spreading cancer requires her to navigate through life and love with an oxygen tube in her nose. Her close and immediate relationship with her mortality lends urgency to life and clarity to her insights. Woodley has a wonderful face — not lollypop cute but certainly pretty with lots of character.
Her parents (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) are loving and supportive but parental love is not the same as romance. Enter Augustus Waters (Elgort) who is, in fact, lollypop cute. He reminds you of Ashton Kutcher but less obnoxious. Like Woodley, as an actor he’s smart and handles his lines well.
They meet at a cancer kids support group in the basement of the Episcopal church. The group leader is a sensational dork, which serves to unite several of the teens, particularly Hazel and Augustus (he’s in remission from the bone cancer that took half his leg). Augustus, wise and perceptive, sees past the oxygen tube and tank that so mortify Hazel. He thinks she’s beautiful (she is) and tells her so.
Hazel has seen herself as “other” for so long she can’t believe that a good-looking guy is interested. She resists, he grins; she ignores, texts. Augustus, who could charm the chrome off a trailer hitch, presses his suit and Hazel commences to bend.
The movie is based on John Green’s much-loved YA novel of the same name. Which is good and not so good. It’s good because the characters and the evolution of their relationship are sketched out so engagingly and much of the dialogue is delightfully witty. The problem is when the movie follows the book too closely: the long interval in Amsterdam, illuminating though it was in the novel, is confusing on the screen. And what was with the Anne Frank House?
Josh Boone’s directing is clean and animated. The actors are the center of every frame, which was prudent, as their wit, timing and appeal distract you from clichés.
For the lachrymose, “Fault” is a cathartic trek with two brave young souls. For the more discriminating, “Fault” is the emotional equivalent of head noogies as the director growls: “Start sniffling, you heartless robot.”