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"The Fault in Our Stars": A Teen Cancer Love Story That Skillfully Separates Your Face from Its Tears 

Wednesday, Jun 4 2014
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Teen romances don't come much weepier than The Fault in Our Stars, director Josh Boone's adaptation of John Green's popular YA novel about the budding relationship between two terminally ill kids. Suffering with incurable lung cancer that keeps her permanently hooked up to an oxygen tank, 16-year-old Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is compelled by her mom (Laura Dern) to attend a support group where she meets charismatic Augustus (Ansel Elgort), who recently lost the lower portion of his right leg to the disease. Whereas Hazel worries about those she'll leave behind — a concern that also manifests itself in her obsession over a fictional book about cancer whose abrupt ending leaves frustratingly unanswered questions — Augustus stares his mortality in the face with a smile. Their ensuing courtship is dramatized with hazy flashbacks and includes a misbegotten trip to Amsterdam's Anne Frank House, where the film awkwardly attempts to have the Holocaust victim's optimistic diary passages inspire Hazel to embrace happiness. Aside from that momentary bump in the road, however, The Fault in Our Stars strikes a delicate balance between dewy-eyed amour and maudlin tear-jerking, with Woodley and Elgort sharing a natural, playful, and supportive chemistry that helps overshadow the fact that Augustus is too flawless — and his fate too contrived — to register as completely plausible. Refusing to shy away from unpleasant truths about death and loss, it's a carpe diem love story that overcomes its own faults, and earns its tempered hopefulness, by maturely recognizing that love and pain are equal, and often intertwined, parts of life.

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Nick Schager

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