'The Fault in Our Stars': Are those tears of joy, critics?

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Perhaps the people who run studios thought Divergent was the big YA novel to launch Shailene Woodley into the stratosphere, but her performance in the cancer weepie The Fault in Our Stars might be the role that makes her a giant star.

Based on John Green’s 2012 best-seller, director Josh Boone’s movie tells the story of a cynical 16-year-old cancer patient (Woodley), saddled with an oxygen tank and breathing tube, and the more-dynamic, free-spirited remission patient (Ansel Elgort) who falls in love with her. “A generation of teens like [Woodley's character] have been weaned on YA novels, leading to more discerning palates,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes in his review. “They can sniff out condescension from a thousand yards. That’s why they’re lucky to have an actress as effortlessly charismatic and natural as 22-year-old Woodley (The Descendants) as their stand-in.”

If you’ve read the book, you know the ending, and if you loved the book, you’re already whimpering. (Beware, fragile souls, the trailer awaits below.) If you’re perhaps older or didn’t read the book, think Love Story and everything that entails — spoilers, schmoilers. As the characters themselves learn, it’s not the ending that counts.

Read more from Nashawaty’s review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“[Gus] woos Hazel Grace as if his life depended on it; you get the impression that in some ways maybe it does. … In other words, he’s too good to be true. That’s the main flaw with Josh Boone’s otherwise poignant film. In Gus’ manic wish-fulfillment adorableness, he’s as eager to please as a litter of cocker-spaniel puppies. It’s as grating as it is hard to buy.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“It’s exploitative in the most obvious ways, and yet sincere. It’s a product of sophisticated market calculation, and yet artless in its immediacy. … Shrewdly prefabricated and yet lovingly assembled, it is, in short, the most beautifully made cynical thing I’ve ever seen.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
“Adapted from John Green’s bestselling novel by screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now), The Fault in Our Stars brims with the kind of adolescent goofiness, searching and spiky anger that marked the John Hughes and Cameron Crowe films of another era.

David Edelstein (New York — Vulture)
“There were times I felt a tingling in my tear ducts and almost let loose. But something rubbed me wrong about the opening voice-over, in which ­Hazel warns that the story she’s about to tell won’t be like one of those movies where everything gets solved with “a Peter Gabriel song.” (Dear Hazel: Eat me. Sincerely, Lloyd Dobler.)”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)
“Watching the mid-movie restaurant scene where Gus proclaims his love for Hazel with poetic awkwardness, the woman to the left of me was bawling her eyes out. The couple to my right strained to stifle laughter. You already know which group you belong to. “

A.O. Scott (New York Times)
“Part of the ingenuity of The Fault in Our Stars is the way it short-circuits any potential criticism through a combination of winsome modesty and brazen manipulation. These kids are so nice, so wise, so good-humored, and they also may be dying. What kind of a monster could look at them and find fault?”

Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle)
“The film is bundled in kindness, and that’s nothing to shrug at. Green’s book made a point of underscoring what a privilege it is to love someone — notably, not to be loved, but to do the loving — and the film adaptation movingly puts those words to picture.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times) ▲
“After having the privilege of witnessing Shailene Woodley’s transcendent, pure and authentic performance in The Fault in Our Stars, I believe there are now only four slots available in the category of Best Performance by An Actress in a Lead role. She’s that memorable.”

Steven Rea (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“Elgort (the son of photographer Arthur Elgort) is like a baby-faced Brando — disarming, and armed with a killer grin. When the pair, dressed for a fancy repast of risotto and Dom Pérignon, gaze across the table at each other, their characters’ love, defiant and resolute, feels real.”

Andrew Barker (Variety)
“Hazel is a great character, tart without being cynical, vulnerable without being needy, and capable of tossing out bons mots like “I’m the Keith Richards of cancer kids” without seeming like a writerly construct. Augustus is decidedly less developed, … a male version of the types … usually played by Kate Hudson and Kirsten Dunst.”

Richard Corliss (TIME)
“Though you know that Fault, like Love Story, is bound to have a body count, the symbiosis of these stars is so strong, you’ll wish there could be a sequel.”

The Fault in Our Stars
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 69
Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent

Rated: PG-13
Length: 125 minutes
Director: Josh Boone
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Woolff, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Distributor: Fox

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