Thursday, June 5, 2014

TFIOS: What the critics are saying

TFIOS reviews are starting to come in and it appears the film is charming (mostly) everyone as much as it did us! We'll continue updating this post as more reviews come in.

Please keep in mind that, while our post below is spoiler free, some full reviews contain spoilers.    

New York Times 
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.

Woodley has a face that can look plain in repose and startlingly beautiful in motion, when her delicate pink skin becomes near translucent. 

Village Voice
Boone and his actors cut straight to the idea that cancer gives you an unwanted identity, becoming, if you let it, the only thing that defines you. All teenagers are looking for identity, but who wants that one? It's the third wheel in Hazel and Augustus's love story, unwanted and always hanging around. It's also the thing that will make their story really, really sad. Sometimes a good cry is just what the doctor ordered.

Boone’s appropriately light touch 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 RichardsonMike Mogis and Nate Walcott’s score somewhat literally underlines the overly insistent, folky-leaning soundtrack selections from the likes of Tom Odell, Lykke Li and Ray LaMontagne.

Director Josh Boone is hardly the most distinctive cinematic stylist, but he’s smart enough to let his scenes linger for a few beats longer than most mainstream directors would, and seems to trust his actors to carry their own dramatic weight. Woodley repays that trust in spades. With close-cropped hair and minimal makeup, she eschews any overly theatrical tics, rarely oversells her character’s goodness and wit  even when her lines seem to be begging for it  and manages to convincingly convey terminal illness without invoking easy pathos. 

Stars 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.

A generation of teens like her have been weaned on YA novels (including the 2012 John Green best-seller this is based on), leading to more discerning palates. 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, Divergent) as their stand-in.

But sensitive direction by Josh Boone, a carefully constructed screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and a pair of beautifully calibrated lead performances by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort raise the film above the level of tearjerker and give it a ballast that I predict will reach its target audience with no problem whatsoever—and maybe even touch a few other hard-hearted cynics along the way.

"The Fault in Our Stars" wins points for being more complex and stylish than most similar films feel they need to be. Most movies with this target audience are maudlin and manipulative, but Boone's film never feels like it's trying too hard to win our tears—or our laughter. It's most comparable to Jonathan Levine's "50/50" in this way; it will leave you feeling like you've been punched in the gut, but it acknowledges that there can be humor even in the worst situations. There are also some nice stylistic flourishes, particularly around Hazel and Gus's texts that make the film feel of the moment, while not being tied to any particular year (or operating system). It's an above-average entry into the genre, broadening its appeal beyond just teenagers, fans of the original novel and those who love a good cry. That said, don't say we didn't warn you; make your grandmother proud and stuff your pockets with tissues before you see this.

But here, I was really moved by how mature the connection is between Gus and Hazel. They look for strength in one another, but they also find themselves drawn to all the quirks and rough edges that define the other person. They are entertained by one another. They know how to be there when the other person is hurting. They ask for nothing from one another. I think the reason the film packs a punch when it hits that home stretch is because the film has made the case for just how important they've become to one another, how inseparable they are at that point, and it's really beautiful. The truth is that love never arrives on our perfect timetable, and it is an act of courage to reach out and embrace it when it is offered, and this film understands just how big and scary and amazing that can be.

The many avid fans of John Green’s novel know this is a tearjerker with more than a few twists, some slaps in the face of conventional storytelling and a poetic but realistic take on the glory and the unfairness of life. Director Josh Boone does a wonderful job of celebrating the sentimentality without shying away from the tough moments. The pacing, music and editing are all first-rate.

This will be a love story that girls cling to and cry over for decades to come. It's got the works: a relatable every-girl wracked with insecurities and fears, a dreamy boy who's kind and endlessly charismatic; an enviable romance; a winsome and sometimes weepy soundtrack; and a finale guaranteed to make you pull out the tissues. Woodley is affable even in Hazel's sharp-tongues angst. Elgort is pretty-boy perfection, with just the right sprinkling of humor. The Fault In Our Stars didn't need to be especially good to pull in teen girls, it just needed to exist in a lull between YA releases. But remarkably--and thankfully--director Josh Boone didn't just strive to make a decent tearjerker. He made a movie that is buoyant with the bitter and the sweet, crafting a concoction that is devastating and exhilarating. 

Maybe not since Titanic has a movie threatened to so thoroughly burrow itself into young hearts only to beautifully break them by the end credits. (Or, really, about a half an hour before the end credits.) Look out for a mighty deluge of teen tears flooding multiplexes this weekend, which will be well-earned by this clever, attractive, sad little movie.

The Wrap
“The Fault in Our Stars” may not show the true messiness of cancer, but it does grapple with death and the ability to survive great loss. Maybe that's enough truth for one movie.
Happily, we can report that "The Fault in Our Stars" is, despite the occasional misstep in tone, largely a solid success - a film that not only manages the transition from page to screen nicely, but also navigates with skill that hugely tricky line between the touching and the trite, the moving and the maudlin.

...I cannot say how accurate it is from a day-to-day or moment-to-moment basis, but the picture absolutely feels honest and feels true in terms of its specific emotional journeys. Yes it is unabashed melodrama and yes it combines sobering and unsentimental drama with occasionally fantastical romance, but in those terms it is an unequivocal success.

NY Daily News
Luckily, the layered, tuned-in adaptation by Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter avoids calculated sentiment. Yes, newcomers to the story will see certain things coming, and Hazel and Gus’ refusal to let cancer define them feels like a conceit. But it also comes off courageous.

New York Times
Directed by Josh Boone (“Stuck in Love”) with scrupulous respect for John Green’s best-selling young-adult novel, 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.

Rolling Stone
It's a fresh, lively love story, brimming with humor and heartbreak, and lifted to the heights by Shailene Woodley, 22, a sublime actress with a résumé, from The Descendants to Divergent, that pretty much proves she's incapable of making a false move on camera.

Washington Post

What’s more, it offers its core young audience the bracing, even exhilarating suggestion that love isn’t just about finding someone worth dying for, but someone who makes life worth living. For that alone, “The Fault in Our Stars” achieves that rare feat of eliciting as many cheers as tears.

Boston Globe
Every generation has to have its “Love Story” — a Kleenex-wadding weepie about romance, illness, and fate — and “The Fault in Our Stars” is just the latest iteration. This is about more than having a good cry. It’s a way for younger moviegoers to confront the (for them) abstract concept of death and come out feeling more alive. A movie like this doesn’t have to be good. It just has to work. (Take Two Visual Review)


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