Based on the best-selling young adult novel by John Green, this poignant romance revolves around two extraordinary teenagers who fall in love at a cancer support group. That's where 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), who wears a nasal cannula attached to an oxygen tank, meets 18-year-old Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who lost the lower half of a leg to cancer. Together, they struggle with the cards life has dealt them, exploring joy and anger, excitement and frustration. Humor abounds, along with credibility about experiencing pain: "That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt."
Debate about the importance of purging sad emotions through drama dates back to Aristotle, but it's obvious that crying at movies makes us thankful for the happiness we experience in the short term. Basically, we enjoy watching tearjerkers because they make us focus on the positive aspects of our lives. That seems to touch young people with cancer and their friends who form a large part of the book's fan base.
Adapted by the hot 30-something writing team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ("The Spectacular Now," "(500) Days of Summer") and directed by Josh Boone ("Stuck in Love"), this emotional roller-coaster ride adds a new twist to the classic coming-of-age movie, while replacing sentimental schmaltz with surprisingly wicked wit and barbed wisdom. Devotees of the book say a subplot involving an ex-girlfriend is cut and the ending is a bit less bleak but, generally, praise its authenticity. And the title comes from Cassius' speech to Brutus in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."
Captivating Woodley is absolutely convincing as the thyroid cancer patient with compromised lungs. She's strongly supported by Elgort (Woodley's brother in "Divergent"), Nat Wolff, Laura Dern and Sam Trammell -- with Willem Dafoe as the reclusive author of Hazel's favorite novel, "An Imperial Affliction" -- he's a nasty, jaded, ex-pat American living in Amsterdam.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Fault In Our Stars" is a heartbreaking, bittersweet 6, a genuine tearjerker.