Tag Archives: The Fault In Our Stars

US Box Office Report: 22/05/15 – 24/05/15

Tomorrowland comes today and is really underwhelming, Poltergeist is here and did really mediocre… y’know what?  This whole Memorial Day Weekend was basically a total bust, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

You may not know this, but this past weekend was a Bank Holiday.  No, really.  A second one in the same month, the official “Spring Bank Holiday”.  No, I really don’t know why.  Maybe we have it so that, when America shuts down for Memorial Day Weekend, we don’t have to wonder what those lazy ingrates are celebrating for whilst we have to keep going to our miserable dead-end jobs.  Did anything even actually shut down on Monday for anybody?  All of the shops in my village remained open as if it was any normal Monday, as if even they realised that this bank holiday is utterly pointless…

Hmm…?  Oh, right, movies.  Sorry, I was awake until 3:30am last night essay writing and got barely 5 hours of sleep.  My brain might make some left-turns during this piece, so be prepared.

Anyways, Memorial Day Weekend!  Typically, this is the period in which studios launch their biggest heavy-hitters to guide the 4-day weekend to piles-full of Scrooge McDuck money.  For example, last year, 20th Century Fox dropped X-Men: Days of Future Past, and despite humanity collectively forgetting everything that ever happened in that 2 hour piece of moving wallpaper as soon as they left the cinema – yeah, I said it – the film still opened to a ridiculous $110 million.  Analyst expectations were high, everyone was on the edge of their seat, this is meant to be the first Summer Blockbuster season that crosses $5 billion, after all, so Memorial Day Weekend should be a fever pit of activity, right?

Small problem with that: the two big films that people gave a sh*t about came out last weekend.  Instead we got a bad Brad Bird film, which is a phrase that physically hurts to type, and a crappy pointless horror movie remake.  Surprising nobody, the box office promptly died on its arse.

Tomorrowland is technically the winner, since it ended up in first place over the period, but it could barely scrape together $40 million over all four days which, for a film that cost $190 million to make and has been marketed and advertised to the hilt, is more than a little pathetic and embarrassing.  Hell, it barely beat the second week of Pitch Perfect 2, which was in an almost dead-heat with Tomorrowland for most of the weekend!  Meanwhile, Poltergeist posted exactly the numbers that you are expecting a crappy horror movie remake to post.  It started out strong on Friday with a good $9 million, then proceeded to sink like a stone once every horror fan collectively realised that, yeah, it was a bit sh*t, wasn’t it?  It eventually finished the long weekend with $26 million for fifth place.

In the land of the limited releases… things were rather crap over there, too, actually.  The only thing worth talking about was When Marnie Was There, currently the last planned Studio Ghibli film so, let’s face it, it would have still been the only thing worth talking about even if the limited releases were filled to the brim with films of quality and note.  Well, for the possible swansong of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, animation studios that has ever existed, the public came out in force!  They all collectively joined arms, packed their best tissues, and skipped merrily together down to their local cine…  Sigh.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  Marnie managed to post a three-day weekend total of $27,388 from 2 screens.  By contrast, Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya managed $54,915 from 3 screens, whilst Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises scored $313,751 from 21 screens.  So, a bit underwhelming.  It did, though, post the highest per-screen average of the whole miserable weekend, at $13,694, so little victories and all that.

tomorrowland 1

This Full List will only be doing the three-day period of this four-day weekend (but including the fourth day in the total gross so far area) cos that’s the formula.  You know what happens when you mess with formula?  Chaos and anarchy, that’s what!

Box Office Results: Friday 22nd May 2015 – Sunday 24th May 2015

1] Tomorrowland

$32,972,000 / $41,736,000 / NEW

My review, for those of you who enjoy reading my opinions on stuff, for some bizarre reason.  Yeah, really disappointed that this one didn’t work and I lay the blame at Brad Bird’s feet.  I know that a lot of people are going to blame Damon Lindelof, and I do get why, but he’s not mainly to blame, here.  I mean, Lindelof’s various works are a lot of things, but the last thing that they are is preachy and obsessively on-the-nose about their messaging, to the detriment of everything else.  Bird is usually way better than this, but he dropped the ball here for whatever reason.  Damn shame.

2] Pitch Perfect 2

$30,830,000 / $117,305,000

For those of you following along at home, that is a 55% drop between weekends which is a far better hold than I thought this film would have.  It is typical, after all, for female-targeted movies to drop majorly between weekends – last year’s box office smash The Fault In Our Stars collapsed 70% between weekends, whilst Fifty Shades Of Grey plummeted 73% between weekends – so this hold is pretty miraculous.  It’s not tearing it up overseas like I thought it would, but $250 million worldwide still seems like a lock by this point, and combined with the inevitable smash that it will be on DVD…

Give me a moment, I just want to savour all of this cos like sh*t is anybody going to give this the proper credit that it is due.

3] Mad Max: Fury Road

$24,815,000 / $95,540,000

Look, I know that everybody is collectively crapping their pants because Fury Road hasn’t slaughtered every box office record and made off with all the money in the world in its first week.  I get that, I really do, the quick-fix narrative of modern day box office reportage makes any film that doesn’t immediately dominate all-comers a complete failure that will sully impressive track-records and ruin careers.  But look a little closer for a second: Max spent the weekdays trading incredibly close places with Pitch Perfect 2, whilst posting very strong numbers, it’s doing very well overseas, that R-rating was always going to handicap it anyway, $150 million domestic now seems a lock, and it’s only dropped 45% between weekends with nothing else to really challenge it until Jurassic World comes along.

Plus, as myself and Lucy discovered on Thursday together for the second time, it’s still an utterly mesmeric movie that deserves way more than a ridiculous box office narrative attached to it.  Believe me, it’s going to be fine.

4] Poltergeist

$22,600,000 / $25,509,000 / NEW

Yep, the reason why it finishes fifth on the four-day scale is because it only made $2.9 million on the Monday.  Crappy horror movies, and especially pointless crappy remakes of actually good horror movies, won’t hang around for long.  Nor, in fact, will actually good horror movies.  Really, no horror movies do particularly strongly at the cinema.  Huh.

5] The Avengers: Age of Ultron

$21,691,000 / $410,978,000

do we think anything will ever beat Avatar’s $2.7 billion all-time worldwide gross?  Can anything?  I ask because I don’t want Avatar to be remembered as a statistic, mainly because I don’t want Avatar to be remembered at all.  Nobody remembers anything from the movie itself, anyway, so we’re already halfway there!

6] Hot Pursuit

$3,600,000 / $30,300,000

The rest of this chart might be wrong, don’t blame me if it is.  Box Office Mojo has clearly been handed over to a clueless intern for whatever reason, and is thusly impossible to read and trust.  I can’t find anything, several reported grosses are just plain wrong – yeah, sure Pitch Perfect 2 posted a $30 million weekend but only did $900,000 on Friday – and their write-ups are somehow even worse than mine.  What’s going on, folks?  Sort it out!  Where am I going to go otherwise for this stuff?  Deadline?  (*snorts derisively*)

7] Furious 7

$2,232,000 / $347,687,000

So I am actually now cross-checking with Deadline on all of these entries for total accuracy.  Feel I need to explain that that was my attempt at a light-hearted joke and that I harbour no ill will to any potential outlets who are looking for writers and, if they’re gigs of the paying variety, I can be reached at p…  (*author notices Owen eyeballing him, hastily covers up work and moves on*)

8] Far From The Madding Crowd

$2,200,000 / $6,048,000

At least I never have to hear “Come all ye fair and tender girls” ever again.  Hearing it in front of damn near every single film for 3 straight months was absolutely maddening, which is something I should never have to say about Carey Mulligan’s singing.

9] Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

$1,875,000 / $66,358,000

Kevin James’ next film has just been picked up by Netflix, the company that just won’t stop enabling Happy Madison affiliates despite common goddamn sense.  If this is this trade-off for Orange Is The New Black and Bojack Horseman… well, I can’t really have an opinion in this case as I haven’t watched either show yet.  They are in my cue, though, so I’ll get to them around 2018.  At the earliest.

10] Home

$1,753,000 / $168,763,000

Well, after nine weeks of quietly decent performing, it’s time to say goodbye to Home.  It’s almost certainly not done well enough to justify DreamWorks continuing to spend $135 million on every damn film they release – thank CHRIST, that lesson cannot be hammered into them fast enough – but it’s hopefully done strong enough to keep them afloat for another year.  Yay!  Now I’m just going to go and find myself some Tip merchandise so that I can feel good and happy about DreamWorks taking steps towards better representation in ani…

Just one goddamn doll?  One?!

(*buries head in hands, defeated*)

Dropped Out: The Age of Adaline, Ex Machina

Callum Petch is living on such sweet nothing.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

If I Stay

The only thing that If I Stay has going for it is that Chloë Grace Moretz is in it.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

if i stayIf I Stay gets off to a really bad start by playing like every bad Young Adult adaptation ever made.  Overly portentous narration by the lead character, so much soft focus that it looks like every camera lens has been laced with nine coats of Vaseline, enough lens flares to wonder whether JJ Abrams is involved in production, irritatingly perfect characters swapping “witty” lines that sound like rejects from a wannabe Aaron Sorkin script, soft indie rock/indie folk on the soundtrack because that’s the one part of Garden State that people remember a decade later…  However, whilst first impressions mean a lot, they don’t mean everything.  You can have a bad, off-putting opening and still come through with the goods.  Example: The Fault In Our Stars, which If I Stay will be negatively compared to a lot during this review so be prepared, had a really off-putting opening that gave me the strong impression that the next two hours were going to be pure hell to sit through, only to end up turning it around and sending me home in floods of tears.

However, that film managed to dig through the melodrama and find the reality of the situation, the heart.  Fault In Our Stars managed to make its cast, although they were still rather perfect in all honesty, feel human, feel real and managed to do the same to its proceedings.  It is an exceedingly manipulative film but it manages to disguise that manipulation through strong character work, excellent performances from everyone and enough self-awareness to know just when to pull back (mostly, that Anne Frank house scene in particular will forever be a black mark against the film for me).  If I Stay has none of those things.  Its characters remain irritatingly perfect and fake the whole time, nobody except Chloë Grace Moretz is trying, and there are several points where I was practically drowning in the open and ham-fisted manipulation.  If The Fault In Our Stars is a really smart and clever person sat across from you breaking you down mentally by knowing exactly what to say when in order to send you into floods of tears, If I Stay is like a brick sh*thouse repeatedly punching you in the kidneys and screaming at you to start crying, dammit!

The story that the film would like for you to start crying at, dammit, revolves around Mia Hall (Moretz).  She’s a high school senior who has an irritatingly perfect family, is a prodigy at the cello, and is currently waiting to hear back from Juliard about her application.  Then, on a snow day, tragedy strikes when the family ends up in a car accident and Mia goes into a coma, during which time she has an out-of-body-experience and has to weigh up whether or not she wants to keep on living or cross over into the afterlife (primarily represented by a blinding white light poorly pasted onto a scene because this is the kind of film we’re dealing with).  And wouldn’t you just know it, fate keeps twisting the knife to such an extent that her choice depends on a boy (Jaime Blackley), whose relationship with Mia forms the focus of the flashbacks that make up the film’s structure.

So, as you may have already gathered, it’s a teen weepie, one that even comes with a built-in fan base due to being an adaptation of a YA book.  None of this is inherently a problem, I must stress; my cynicism my rise significantly upon hearing these things but I am always more than willing to get invested in proceedings and have a good cry – I cry at least three times throughout every viewing I’ve had of ParaNorman, for example.  It becomes a problem when I spend nearly two hours in the company of a group of characters and not once do I see them as actual people, which is the case here.  If I Stay’s cast of characters are sickeningly perfect and practically flawless.  Maybe it’s supposed to make the tragedy sting that much more, but all it did for me was make me pray for that car accident to travel back through time and knock off everybody sooner.  It’s the usual stuff: scenes of stilted actors trading lines that would look low-quality even in a play written by high school drama students, characters blowing up (metaphorically, pretty much everybody is way too bored to bother to display emotion) over petty little misunderstandings, a world where everything is going amazingly for everyone until it suddenly isn’t…

Proceedings don’t feel real, is what I am getting at.  Nobody involved feels real, nothing that occurs does anything to mask the fact that this is all being cynically designed to wring tears from you.  I kept being held at arm’s length, never able to get invested, despite the fact that the concept of death is one that never fails to immediately kill my mood and bring me to the verge of tears.  Not helping matters is the incredibly generic way that proceedings are presented.  As previously stated, there’s the extreme amount of soft focus, the lens flares and the licensed soundtrack that played everything but some Bon Iver (there was one point where I was sat thinking that the only act the film hadn’t utilised yet was Mazzy Star… and then, ten seconds later, Mazzy Star came on).  But there’s also the over-egged score, the dreary narration that aspires to say something profound and insightful but is more the equivalent of an 11 year-old who read one book of poetry once and decided that they could do that, piece of piss, the lethargic pacing and awkward structure (I feel the film actually loses something by flitting back and forth between pre and post-accident), the uninspired cinematography…  I’ve seen all of this stuff before and executed far better, the result here just comes off as completely lifeless (make your own jokes).

Oh, and then there are the times when the film goes so overboard that it’s like being stuck on the Titanic as it splits in half whilst sinking.  There’s a bit at the halfway point (that’s been spoilt in the trailers, natch) that should be the film’s big emotional shanking, except that the scene instead turns into self-parody by performing all of the following: soft focus, lens flares, that bit where the diegetic sound cuts out, old memories shot in grainy Super 8 and which jump around the screen like the film has been worn to the bone, practically ordering the otherwise great Chloë Grace Moretz to overact as much as she possibly can, frequent cuts to that stupid white light effect, and the score turns into the kind of overegged melodramatic ridiculous theatricality that you can accurately (and I am not exaggerating here, this is what it sounded like) recreate by flinging a symphony orchestra and a withered old grand piano down five flights of stairs, recording the result and then syncing up the resultant mess so that the resultant cacophony is all playing at the same time as one another.  If you think that that description of the score was overblown, you haven’t experienced this scene.  The film tries way too hard and the result just had me on the verge of laughter, especially when they do it all again two-thirds in!

The one thing that If I Stay really has going for it is the fact that Chloë Grace Moretz has turned up as the lead role and, as I’m sure we’re all know by now, Chloë Grace Moretz does not half-ass a performance.  She spends the film’s entire runtime trying desperately to find the humanity in Mia, trying to break through the script’s “perfect girl in every single way” characterisation, and she does frequently succeed.  Some of the film’s clunkier “people do not talk that way” lines flow convincingly when delivered by her (there’s a bit in a coffee shop that really threw into sharp relief just how much better she is at this than the rest of her cast-mates), and she’s on a never-ending mission to sell the romance with Adam, the boy I mentioned earlier.  Unfortunately, on-screen romances and relationships are a two-way street and her efforts at propping up the film end up mostly for naught as nobody else is trying to root out the character depth and humanity the script lacks, or just not trying period.  Least of all Jaime Blackley as Adam, who always comes off as less “cool, mysterious dreamboat” and more “bored, flat paycheque-seeker” and his complete lack of interest stifles any potential chemistry between him and Moretz.  If there’s anyone to place the primary blame on for the wasting of Moretz’s efforts, it’s him; he is dreadful here.

All this being said, I don’t hate If I Stay.  It doesn’t work, it’s way too clichéd and blatantly manipulative to get me fully invested in proceedings, and it’s too cynically calculated in its manipulations, but I don’t hate it.  I might find it generic, but it is at least competently made and Chloë Grace Moretz shows up to act (which she pretty much always does anyway, but that’s beside the point).  The only major issue I have with it, as in it’s the only thing that prompted a full-on change of thought in my brain beyond boredom, is its ending or, rather, the lack of one.  It may have worked in the book (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t read it), where such a sudden cut to black can be better conveyed and carry great emotional weight due to well-written prose, but here it just feels like the last fifth of the last reel had been eaten by somebody at some point.  I felt tempted to ask out loud, “Err, don’t you still have another 10 minutes of story to tell, Movie?” but then I realised that that would have meant being indifferently bored for another 10 minutes if it were there, so I kept schtum.

I should probably also mention that in my screening, of which there were about 20 people, I was the only one who wasn’t openly and loudly sobbing at some point during If I Stay.  So, I dunno, maybe I’m just the heartless monster.

Callum Petch push in, push in, 1, 2, 3, pull out!  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

The Fault In Our Stars

fault-in-our-stars-posterIt may follow a few too many of the tragedy-softening conventions it promises to subvert, but The Fault In Our Stars still packs one hell of an emotional gut-punch.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

I was dreading this one, folks.  Not in the ways that most of its target audience were likely dreading it (the marketing certainly wanted me to be dreading it in that way, in any case), but because it set off way too many alarm bells.  I am extremely resistant to films that blatantly try to push my emotions in certain directions because I detest such things; if a film wants me to spring a leak in the tear department, it should actually work for it instead of just throwing on a whole bunch of elements that will become tragic later on, sugercoat it by playing a Peter Gabriel song, in the words of the film itself, and shouting “YOU WILL CRY OR YOU ARE A HEARTLESS MONSTER” at me.  The Fault In Our Stars looked like that kind of movie.  “It’s a romance between a teenage girl who is dying of cancer and a young man whose cancer is in remission!  START THE COUNTDOWN CLOCK TO THE TEARS!”  And really not helping the film’s case was the trailer, the one that played before every gorram film for the past two months and made it look exactly like the sickeningly sweet and manipulative trash piece I’d pegged it for from that abysmal tagline (“One Sick Love Story”).

So I was disarmed by the film I ended up sitting through.  I mean, yeah, it’s still syrupy and calculated to break your heart in two in the messiest and most painful fashion imaginable, but The Fault In Our Stars wasn’t content to call it a day there.  Real effort has been put in making the romance something to genuinely invest in and it sometimes has a genuine edge that breaks through the schmaltz to inject a string of black comedy or subversiveness that makes all of the characters involved feel like people rather than ciphers or vessels for future tragedy.  Its sharpest edges have clearly been sanded down for Hollywood (something I can tell even though I have not read the book), but the personality and depth are prevalent enough to make the result more than just a tear factory.  Although it is utterly heart-breaking.  Utterly.

The story powering the factory centres around Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a sixteen-year-old living with terminal thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs.  Her life is a simple yet sad one: she watches reality TV, she constantly reads and re-reads her favourite novel “An Imperial Affliction” and she attends cancer support groups because her mother (supposedly mistakenly, if we believe Hazel) thinks she’s depressed.  It is at one of these meetings that she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Egort), an eighteen year-old whose cancer is currently in remission, although not before costing him his right leg, and is a charming individual who almost immediately falls in love with Hazel.  His devil-may-care and laidback attitude prove to be what Hazel needs and the two begin bonding, although Hazel tries to keep her distance as she’s worried that she’ll destroy him emotionally when the cancer finally catches up to her.  You can probably tell where this is all heading.

Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that this time.  The opening 40 or so minutes, especially, the film establishes its leads as actual people rather than walking pity parades/ticking time-bombs.  An early visit to the cancer support group, for example, ends up very blackly funny by reframing the experience as wholly patronising to those it purports to help.  Both of our leads, as well as secondary character Isaac (played by Nat Wolff from The Naked Brothers Band in case you ever wanted a walking case study on how starring in a Nickelodeon sitcom at a young age needn’t always lead to premature career suicide) whose cancer is about to claim the second of his two eyes, are just as comfortable in cracking wise about their illnesses as they are making melodramatic speeches about its effects.  And things in their relationship move slowly enough to give time for their bond to feel meaningful; these are two characters who fall in mutual love because they’re people who feel connected with one another, whose lives are enhanced by knowing one another, rather than it being predicated on one another’s ability to speak like their every line is a rejected piece of Shakespeare prose.  I mean, that last part is still sometimes the case in the film’s dialogue, but it rarely feels clunky.  Hell, at points it seems natural, the result of two teenagers forced to grow up too fast as they deal with their mortality; of course they may end up wise beyond their years.

The fact that the film was able to make me think this way about Gus is especially noteworthy, seeing as his character doesn’t exactly have the best of starts.  He initially pressed far too many of my “this character is walking wish-fulfilment bait rather than an actual character worthy of my sympathy” buttons.  He was hunky, had a smirk/smile that made his face the most punch-able thing I had come across in a good long while, is relentless in his pursuit of Hazel (which, given recent tragic real-life events, is something we need to stop portraying as a good thing in works of fiction, I believe) and has an idiosyncratic tick that he justifies as “a metaphor” (he likes to put cigarettes in his mouth, a thing that could kill him, but not light them, therefore not giving the thing that could kill him the power to kill him, and yes I know that that’s not what a metaphor means).  Hell, even later on, after the film dials back and grounds him a bit more, he still gets dangerously close to the line between “actual human being” and “The World’s Most Perfect Man”.

It’s predominately a testament to Ansel Egort that Gus never ends up straying over that line, instead turning into somebody I begrudgingly liked, then really cared for and then shed buckets of tears over.  No matter how ridiculously nice and amazing and pretentious Gus gets, Egort is there to root out the humanity at the centre of the character and keep him rooted back down on planet Earth.  He also strikes up lightening chemistry with Shailene Woodley, who is also excellent.  Unlike her co-star, Woodley doesn’t have to keep her character from veering off the cliff of likability and can instead focus on being the emotional centre of the film, something she excels at due being totally engaged with the script at all times, even in the voiceover (which wasn’t exactly her strong suit beforehand, as anyone who saw Divergent will likely quite gladly tell you).  No matter how wordy the script may get, no matter how melodramatic a scene may end up, they play it all very naturally.  Nothing they do seems particularly forced, barring the odd exception (an egging sequence involves a line said by Gus that I am amazed everybody let slip through without calling out due to its pretentious stupidity), and that very grounded and realist performance work, regardless of the material, is what made connecting with these characters so easy.

Of course, that naturalist acting is at times at odds with the melodramatic yet squeaky-clean nature of the film itself.  Yes, despite stating its intent at the very top of the film to subvert all of the softening and sugar-coating that typically goes on in Hollywood tellings of tragedies, The Fault In Our Stars doesn’t do so nearly as much as it would like to/thinks it’s doing.  This isn’t too much of a problem, as it doesn’t sand down the stuff that matters too much, but it’s most noticeable when the film doesn’t quite know that enough is enough.  By that I mean there are times when the film indulges in romance and melodrama tropes which would be perfectly fine if it learnt to pull back every now and again, cos when it goes all in, it goes all in.  At one point, Hazel has an episode and the entire sequence is presented in slow-motion with all diegetic sound removed and replaced with a mournful violin and piano.  There’s a section during the finale that utilises flashbacks and then practically drowns the screen in soft focus, slow-panning and lens flares.  Most egregiously, there’s a bit where Hazel and Gus are visiting Anne Frank’s House and Hazel, whose lungs are very weak, has to climb some stairs.  The scene is backed by slightly worried music and shot in such a way that the point is adequately conveyed, but then the scene keeps working in “relevant” Anne Frank quotes and builds up to a big romantic gesture in a way that would be offensive if it weren’t so unintentionally silly.

These are the most notable instances of the film going overboard and, thankfully, they’re in the minority.  Most of the rest of the softening instead comes from the film’s score and soundtrack which are, you guessed it, dreamy reverb-drenched guitar and piano instrumentals, and soft indie-folk respectively.  They’re fine, most are really quite nice in isolation (I do have a soft spot for well executed versions of both of those), but they do betray the edge the film wants to have.  It’s why the appearance of the cantankerous author of Hazel and Gus’ favourite novel (Willem Dafoe who… well, Willem Dafoes the entire time he’s on screen) feels very weird, his love of Swedish hip-hop, and tonally mean-spirited and out-of-place instead of natural and intentional.  I feel like you could cut his appearance out of the film (keep the trip to Amsterdam but just cut him out) and not really lose a whole lot besides 10 minutes, which would actually help the film in all honesty (it’s a little bit too long).  Failing that, it could work but it just requires more commitment to that end of the cynicism-optimism spectrum than the film is willing to try, seeing as it believes that such a tone would necessitate the removal of a romantic candlelit dinner in a fancy restaurant.  The film nearly strays back in that direction by hinting repeatedly at Hazel’s dissatisfaction with how her parents handle looking after her (her mother is relentlessly positive and her father keeps his distance), but it doesn’t fully commit which gives off the impression that later drafts of this script severely cut down on that element.  Again, none of this is bad, because Egort and Woodley are excellent and the film manages to get a good balance between their natural performances and its commercial melodrama leanings, but the hints of an even better film are too tantalising and… and…

…ah, sod it.  I honestly can’t sit here and pick straws at what the film could have been or how it seems a bit too sanitised and safe and sugar-coated than initially planned.  Well, I mean, I can, but to do so is pointless in the face of this one fact: about 80 minutes in, The Fault In Our Stars finally pulls out its knife and emotionally shivs you in the gut, at which point the tears started and really didn’t let up in any considerable way for a good half hour afterwards.  It didn’t matter that I had called the turn from the first time that I saw the trailer, it didn’t matter that the film had not-in-the-least-bit subtly arranged the pieces from frame one to get this outcome, none of the other issues and hang-ups mattered a damn bit.  I was gone.  The dam protecting the waterworks had burst and nothing short of a friggin’ miracle or a re-appearance of Willem Dafoe Willem Dafoe-ing was going to stop them.  This is where Woodley and Egort really get to come into their own, as they transfer all of that hard work spent building up their relationship and funnel it into their new reality with its impending countdown clock of oblivion.  It never once feels fake, they never once strain for emotion, they never once give off the aura of “see me acting, I am all the acting”.  Hell, one or the other spends pretty much every scene afterwards shedding tears and it still works.  There’s even a bit at a gas station where the film once again indulges in its melodrama impulses and Egort lets loose, yet it still works and doesn’t break the mood or spell the film is under.

I spent a fair bit of the drive back from the cinema questioning how much of that emotional release was due to the film itself and how much was due to personal events in my life that I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever get over (my granddad passed away due to cancer late last year), and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it is down to the work the film puts in in those first 80 or so minutes.  A real attachment had been forged between myself and Gus & Hazel, despite the fact that the entire film had been very obviously constructed around the moment the tragedy button is pushed and the fact that they rarely talk like one would expect normal teenagers to.  To see their genuinely romantic relationship be slowly and devastatingly torn asunder during those last 40 minutes was genuinely upsetting and every time I thought I had cried all that I could cry, the film would once again throw up another poignant scene between the pair that would set me off all over again.  I may have been played like a goddamn fiddle and I do not care.

And, in the end, is that really a bad thing?  Movies are genetically engineered to force certain reactions out of us, after all.  Can one really get mad at a film for doing what it was supposed to do?  Can I really pick a film apart for hitting me with only about 80% of the power it teases potentially having because it doesn’t quite nail the pre-tragedy tone?  Can I really call a film out on its extremely manipulative romance and tragedy when I was eating both up hook line and sinker?  I may have had some personal investment in one of the film’s main themes, but that doesn’t explain away the exceptional work that leads Ansel Egort and Shailene Woodley put in and how I was wrapped up in them long before the countdown clock made its presence known.  I could put a hundred asterisks to my recommendation of this film, I could nit-pick or just plain pick until the sun went down and I could try to pithily offer a backhanded compliment with my recommendation.

But all of them distract from these two facts.  1] The Fault In Our Stars somehow just plain works.  2] I cried profusely for 30 of its final 40 minutes (which includes the end credits).  End of story, go see it.  Okay?

Callum Petch will stay here and never push things to the side.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!