'The Fault in Our Stars': What the Critics Are Saying

10:14 AM PST 06/05/2014 by Ashley Lee

Based on the best-seller by John Green and directed by Josh Boone, the film stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell and Willem Dafoe.

The Fault in Our Stars, out Friday, stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as two terminally ill teens who spark a relationship  after meeting in a cancer support group. Based on the best-seller by John Green and directed by Josh Boone, the film also features Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell and Willem Dafoe.

PHOTOS: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort Fete Love Amid Cancer at 'Fault in Our Stars' NYC Premiere

Opening against the Tom Cruise-Emily Blunt action flick Edge of Tomorrow, Fox 2000's big-screen adaption of the hit YA novel -- which cost just $12 million to make -- is already the top-selling love story in Fandango's history, and box-office observers predict it will gross $30 million or more during its opening weekend.

Read what top critics are saying about The Fault in Our Stars:

The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Justin Lowe says in his review that "the greatest strengths of the film clearly come from Green’s novel, which resolutely refuses to become a cliched cancer drama, creating instead two vibrant, believable young characters filled with humor and intelligence, both facing complex questions and issues unimaginable even to people twice their age," and praises screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for preserving Green's literate tone. He also notes "Boone’s appropriately light touch [that] emphasizes the underlying literary material, foregrounding the performances with occasional underplayed visual humor and reserving stylistic nuance for more contemplative scenes, attractively framed by cinematographer Ben Richardson."

Of the cast, "Woodley’s wise and accomplished take on Hazel Lancaster will resonate with those inclined to view the world with a somewhat skeptical point of view," and "by dint of ample charm and considerable insight, Elgort’s Gus represents more than a foil for Hazel’s self-doubt – he offers her the opportunity to mold all of her hope and frustration into a fully three-dimensional, transcendent emotional experience, whether she wants to call that 'love' or not." Playing Hazel's parents, "Dern and Trammell display a realistic degree of concern without completely smothering her, and when crisis erupts, their instinctual compassion quickly restores calm," while Wolff "provides some suitably dark humor."

VIDEO: How Nat Wolff Balances Blindness, Comedy and Raw Eggs in 'The Fault in Our Stars'

The New York Times' A.O. Scott warns that "the movie, like the book before it, is an expertly built machine for the mass production of tears ... the film sets out to make you weep — not just sniffle or choke up a little, but sob until your nose runs and your face turns blotchy. It succeeds," adding that Woodley's "un-self-conscious performance is the perfect mirror of her character’s pragmatic temperament," while author Peter Van Houten is "played with fine, unshaven, whiskey-soaked misanthropy by Willem Dafoe." He observes that the love story "is also a perfect and irresistible fantasy. Hazel and Gus possess an absolute moral authority, an ability to assert the truth of their experience that few can share and many might covet.… The loudest weeping you hear — including your own — may arise not from grief or admiration, but from envy."

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune writes that Fault is "discreetly assaultive" on viewers' tear ducts, and that "Woodley's direct, open, emotionally plangent acting is a full step or two above that of co-star Elgort." On the other hand, "Boone's technique, not helped by the editing, is prone to clunky reaction shots of young people in love and smiling at each other. There's not a lot of easy ebb-and-flow on screen here; points are made, obstacles are met, or not, and there's too much dead air around the dialogue exchanges."

Time's Richard Corliss notes that Woodley "has the gift of acting internally: she makes you watch her watch something, lets you read the mind of her character like a good book," while Elgort "has a natural screen appeal and suave chemistry with Woodley." But an "egregious scene" in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is "where a Jewish girl’s descent into the Holocaust is straight-facedly compared to a teen’s cancer. No, we have to say; they’re different. To paraphrase Hazel’s maxim on infinities: Some atrocities are bigger than other atrocities."

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USA Today's Claudia Puig gives the film three and a half stars out of four, as it is "an unabashed tearjerker, though it's also about celebrating life. The movie is well-written, well-acted, acerbic, funny and wisely observed. Fans of the book will be glad to hear it is faithful to Green's tale."

The Fault in Our Stars hits theaters June 6.

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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