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Based on the novel by John Green of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars did not make this reviewer cry (but I would happily admit it if it had).

As Hazel Grace Lancaster would have us believe, The Fault in Our Stars is the REAL version of a sad love story.  So why do the characters in this movie so often talk like no human being I’ve ever met?  (A particularly egregious example comes when Hazel throws out the neological insult “douche pants,” and everyone acts like it is the most clever phrase ever invented.)  And why are the relationships so ill-defined?  The chemistry between Shailene Woodley as Hazel and Ansel Elgort as Gus could be stronger. Their romance appears to be fated as soon as they meet in a cancer support group.  The problem is, Gus is too instantly enthralled by Hazel for it to ever really be clear why, and it doesn’t help that he is the epitome of too good to be true.  I appreciated that TFIOS was not a case of the female lead continuously and ridiculously insisting that she is too awkward for anyone to like her, but this version of instant perfect attraction did nothing to disabuse me of the notion that gradual realization of love is the best route to go with romance.

The actors were mostly fine, but they were hamstrung by a story that stuck to cliché while insisting that it was avoiding clichés.  The best performance comes from Willem Dafoe as Peter van Houten, the author of a novel beloved by Hazel because it so closely matches her own experience with cancer.  But the strength of Dafoe’s performance paradoxically hurts the film overall, because van Houten belongs in another movie entirely, and Dafoe’s conviction highlights that dissonance.  He is bizarrely villainous as a nihilist drunk.  His railing about how the world is an awful, awful place is so over-the-top that he would be more at home on something like American Horror Story, which at least knows how ridiculous it is.

The hype of The Fault in Our Stars has been that there is no way to avoid crying during it.  I was perfectly prepared for it to be a tearjerker, and I was theoretically fine with that, because all movies manipulate, so shamelessly eliciting an emotional response is not an automatic negative in my estimation.  But there was only one time during which I even barely choked up.  And it wasn’t like this was the sort of movie that I was just never going to connect with; I like romance, I like tearjerkers, and I like YA fiction.  I may not be the biggest fan of any of those genres, but I certainly do not dismiss them outright.  But TFIOS was just so predictable with its emotional moments.  I knew somebody was going to die, I knew this love was doomed, and not only that, Hazel and Gus (especially Gus) had either made peace with their fate or were in the process of doing so.  I may be in the minority on this lack of connection, and that would seem to be the case based on all the sniffles in the packed theater, but I wonder if those reactions were based on the connections that had already been established by the novel.  I have to believe that this story was told so much better in the book, because there is a profound connection to this story among its fan base that I just do not get based on the film version.  It is too messy and too accidentally strange and just does not go far enough for a story that insists it is so different. C