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The Fault In Our Stars

Shailene Woodley is one of the brightest young stars on the movie scene, and her honest performance is reason enough to see The Fault in Our Stars. Fans of John Green’s best-selling novel and devotees of tearjerkers will also want to see the picture, but Woodley seals the deal. Like her character, she doesn’t encourage feelings of pity or sloppy sentiment on the part of the viewer. Without discounting the role of the director and writers, she seems incapable of striking a false note.

Hazel Grace Lancaster has lived with mortality staring her in the face for most of her sixteen years. She wheels an oxygen tank alongside her wherever she goes. Her parents have made her well-being their number-one priority. A bright girl with a caustic wit, she has avoided support groups but finally caves into pressure and attends her first meeting at a local church. There she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an unusually brash, confident boy who has lost a leg to cancer but hasn’t allowed it to darken his outlook—or personality. He pursues her—avidly—but she’s only interested in being friends, or so she thinks.
The Fault in Our Stars gets so much right that I’m reluctant to carp. I felt the movie dragging in the third act and I wasn’t crazy about all the casting. Laura Dern is warm and empathetic as Hazel’s mom, but sensitive-looking Sam Trammell (from True Blood) is bland as the father, with a frozen look of concern on his face. Nat Wolff also gives a one-note performance as Isaac, Gus’ friend and fellow cancer victim.
But, to its credit, the movie is never foolish or condescending toward its characters or its audience. Director Josh Boone and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber take its teenage protagonists seriously, and so do we.
Readers of the book will have their own opinions, I’m sure, but while I liked the film overall, what I take away more than anything is a growing admiration for its leading lady. Shailene Woodley’s performance will stay with me long after I’ve forgotten the particulars of The Fault in Our Stars.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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