Say what you will about “The Fault In Our Stars”, the big screen adaptation of John Green’s best selling novel about two cancer patients who fall in love, but director Josh Boone and his screenwriters have crafted a sincere and totally irresistible tale that makes the familiar seem bittersweet and heart-stoppingly new. It’s rare to find a mainstream American movie that doesn’t rely on formula to some degree. That’s one of the many reasons this movie is so refreshing: we haven’t encountered these characters before, and yet we find ourselves rooting for them from the word go. What’s more, Boone has cast his film so well, that actors we thought we knew deliver eye-opening performances. I like Ansel Elgort, but I never suspected he had what it takes to play a character like Augustus Waters, a confident boy who has lost a leg to cancer but hasn’t allowed it to ruin his life. He is a revelation, bringing to life a difficult character whose intensity is frightening at times. It’s his pursuit of “positivity,” always looking at the bright side, that gives the movie its heartbeat. I’ve also been impressed with Shailene Woodley and I’ve said it so many times before (if you haven’t seen her in “The Spectacular Now” get on it), but she manages to top herself with this performance, playing a 16 year old cancer patient who meets Augustus at a support group meeting. She and him relate to each other for unlikely reasons, but their connection is strong and credible. Her character is smart, funny, seemingly fearless, and ultimately heartbreaking. I don’t know what other 22-year old actress could have pulled this off, but she is terrific. And yet I have to admit: I didn’t know what to anticipate from “The Fault In Our Stars”, but I couldn’t have foreseen such a sincere, emotionally powerful story. How director Josh Boone and his youthful stars achieved such seemingly effortless honesty, is hard to say but easy to admire. Best of all, he has the good sense to let the camera stay close to Woodley as her face reflects what words cannot. Woodley is a marvel. The audience couldn’t get enough of her. You won’t, either. Her performance grabs hold and won’t let go. Same goes for the movie.
The Fault In Our Stars  ★★★