Hankies out, everyone. The new Shailene Woodley-starring romance "The Fault in Our Stars" has arrived, and according to reviews, waterworks are all but guaranteed.
As for the rest of the movie, which tells the story of two young cancer patients who fall in love, most film critics agree that although "Fault" isn't faultless, it's a compelling tale of doomed love, anchored by a strong performance from Woodley.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey said, "Even though an unhappy ending is a given, 'Fault' is no pity party. ... What sustains the film through the rockier times are its challenging themes, offering real issues for the young protagonists to wrestle with, rather than whether anyone will be carded trying to buy beer."
As for the actors themselves, Sharkey said Woodley and costar Ansel Elgort "play the hand they're dealt well, balancing the sentiment with a good deal of teenage moxie. Make no mistake, 'Fault' is a certifiable weepie, but it comes by most of its emotions honestly."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe called the film "intelligent and earnest," and said it "works well enough to keep a doubter from feeling mugged by sentiment." Director Josh Boone "keeps 'Fault' moving along professionally but with little visual flair; he tends to the characters' emotions and trusts that the rest of the movie will take care of itself," Burr said. "But it's the emotional close-ups audiences will come for, and as 'The Fault in Our Stars' winds its way to a sincere and soggy conclusion, they'll probably feel they've had their money's worth."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott called "Fault" "an expertly built machine for the mass production of tears." Thanks to Woodley's "un-self-conscious performance ... we are entirely in her thrall," and Elgort's Gus "is such a handsome bundle of chivalry, positive energy and impish self-deprecation that we may swoon over him even before Hazel does."
The problem, Scott said, is that the film is "less a movie about cancer than a depiction -- really a celebration -- of adolescent narcissism. Though it is a tragic love story, it is also a perfect and irresistible fantasy."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick La Salle also gave a measured review. He said the movie is "almost great and almost awful interchangeably, sometimes simultaneously. Manipulative in the worst way, it's also manipulative in the best way, so that, in order to be unmoved by it, you would have to try actively to be a jerk. Go in with anything short of willful disengagement, and you will be swept up -- at times."
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday said "Fault" is "a terrific addition" to the canon of doomed-love stories. The movie's "forthright, unsentimental dialogue" is balanced by "an irreverent, almost giddy, sense of lightness," she said, and the script (by "500 Days of Summer" scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) "brims with the kind of adolescent goofiness, searching and spiky anger that marked the John Hughes and Cameron Crowe films of another era."
Not every critic was moved to tears, though. Christy Lemire, writing for RogerEbert.com, said that "Fault" "feels emotionally inert, despite its many moments that are meant to put a lump in our throats. Perhaps it's trying so hard to bludgeon us over the head and make us feel deeply that the result is numbing instead."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times