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Review Roundup: Fault Critics Do Not Think You Should Kiss at the Anne Frank House

DF-18655 Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) share a tender moment during a memorable trip to Amsterdam.

Today’s the day: It’s time to get your cry on while watching The Fault in Our Stars. As predicted, the scene that has divided most reviewers is Hazel and Gus’s kissy visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. A few think it’s gorgeous, most think it's too literal, and everyone feels the need to mention it, because ... making out at the Anne Frank House? Really?

“It’s in Amsterdam that the film opens up visually — ditching the closeups and domestic interior scenes to take in the well-photographed surroundings — and Hazel and Augustus forge their most affecting connections. It’s also the only section where the film tips fully over into uncomfortable kitsch, as the couple experiences a romantic breakthrough during a visit to Anne Frank’s attic, while voiceovers recite passages from The Diary of a Young Girl. The film may get away with using cancer to tug the heartstrings, but combining cancer and the Holocaust is at least one trigger too many.” Andrew Barker, Variety

“Hazel shares her favorite book with Gus and they lament its abrupt ending, longing to know what happened after the last page. Gus cashes in a gift and arranges for the two of them to go to Amsterdam to meet the mysterious author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe). Their encounter with Van Houten is strange, but intriguing. However, a scene in which they kiss in the Anne Frank House, inspiring strangers to applaud, stands out for its artificiality (to be fair, it's also in the book).” Claudia Puig, USA Today

“A visit to Anne Frank’s house at first seems to strike an unnecessarily maudlin and strident tone, but director Josh Boone builds it into something powerful and profound, as Hazel breathlessly climbs the tiny staircases to Frank’s cramped quarters. At that moment, The Fault in Our Stars is less about young love than about the heroic moral search for meaning in suffering.” Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

“That Dutch-American author, played by Willem Dafoe as a surly crank in pajamas who has scotch for breakfast, steers the movie in a more mature direction: He compares the couple’s childish belief that the characters in his book continued existing after the final page to the equally absurd belief in life after death. The teens, reflecting on a lesson we should all learn (no author can live up to what he is on the page), have their first kiss at ... the Anne Frank House. Yet the scene works. Take that, cancer. You Nazi.” Kyle Smith, New York Post

“Fault has a few. A meeting in New Amsterdam with Hazel’s favorite author (Willem Dafoe) seems a bilious detour with an improbable payoff. The trip also affords the filmmakers an egregious scene in the Anne Frank House, where a Jewish girl’s descent into the Holocaust is straight-facedly compared to a teen’s cancer. No, we have to say; they’re different. To paraphrase Hazel’s maxim on infinities: some atrocities are bigger than other atrocities.” Richard Corliss, Time

“The meeting is a bust. Their literary idol turns out to be a cynical, drunken lout. The kids decide to shake it off and tour the nearby Anne Frank museum. Gamely lugging her oxygen tank up a series of narrow stairways, stage 4 lung cancer survivor Hazel makes it to the attic, with the aid of Gus, who has a partially prosthetic leg owing to bone cancer. There, surrounded by fellow tourists and visitors, the museum exhibit's audio recordings of Frank's diary fill the air, underscoring to Hazel and Gus the importance of cherishing every moment. They kiss — it's their first biggie — and the onlookers break into applause. If that scene works for you, and on you, then by your lights The Fault in Our Stars will qualify as a successful film adaptation. Contrarily, if you find yourself resisting the premise and intention of that scene and its D-Day assault on your tear ducts, well, Shailene Woodley nearly makes up for it.” Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“I could make a note of how Gus seems to be an almost supernaturally perfect boyfriend (he’s almost a Manic Pixie Dream Guy), or everyone looks really pretty even when being ravaged by disease. I could note that a mid-film trip to a certain tourist destination doesn’t work, but that’s five minutes in a two-hour picture. It gets so many emotional details just right that those are genuine nitpicks. In terms of narrative and character, it barely takes a false step.” Scott Mendelson, Forbes

“It's in this middle passage of the film that The Fault in Our Stars succumbs most to triteness, thanks to an overly moralistic twist that sends Hazel and Augustus into an emotional tailspin. The remainder of their trip abroad is full of lessons learned and grand romantic gestures, ending on a mawkish note with a misjudged semi-climactic sequence combining two very dangerous thematic elements: strangers erupting into applause, and, um, the Anne Frank House.” David Lee Dallas, Slant Magazine

“Dafoe gives a snarling little speech on infinity, fictionality and the limits of adult pity —the only serious misstep of the film, popping its mood with a burst of vinegar. They end up in Anne Frank’s house, of all places, where Hazel pants up the stairs with her oxygen cylinder to the sound of tour-guide narration ('Where there is hope there is life'), reaches the top, kisses Gus and receive a round of applause for her labors. You won't know where to put yourself. The whole episode feels almost drunk, it's so bad, but then it seems to be the curse of these YA adaptations, that the very in-built audience that guarantees a studio green light also seems to guarantee a timorous fidelity to every comma.” Tom Shone, The Guardian

“Gus and Hazel’s trip to Amsterdam is alternately sweet and cloying, with a side trip to the Anne Frank Museum that crosses over into embarrassingly bad taste. Must Anne Frank’s life and words play over the soundtrack as Hazel struggles to reach the attic? Is that really the comparison that should be made there?” Elisabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire

“The trip is by turns disappointing, inspiring, joyful, and tragic. A crucial love scene is beautifully handled, with nary a false note. It's unfortunate that an earlier moment, involving a trip to Anne Frank's house, feels uncomfortable - cheesy, and, in its juxtapositions, somewhat tone-deaf. It's important to note that the scene - and the rationale behind it - is conveyed far more successfully in the book.” Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

“The movie mostly does too, but what may have worked in a novel is a little more awkward in a film. Take a major moment, when the ailing Hazel vanquishes her pessimism and decides to commit to her love for Augustus. She is in Amsterdam, and out of breath after climbing many, many stairs to the attic in the Anne Frank house. Suddenly she turns and kisses him. He kisses back. They kiss for quite awhile, in fact. After, the strangers around them warmly applaud. Augustus mockingly bows. And on the page, with your imagination at work, this plays as dramatically romantic. But on a screen, made real, all I could think was: OK, are these teens really making out in Anne Frank's attic? Are they that cluelessly self-absorbed? Even the most generous answer — that the scene means to metaphorically conflate cancer and the Holocaust, to talk about survivors and victims — is still queasy, at best. And what might have only seemed odd when read silently, becomes offensive seen upclose.” Stephen Witty, The Star-Ledger

“Neustadter and Weber keep some of Green’s signature lines, such as when Hazel compares falling in love to 'the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.' But they also work to show Hazel’s grim determination not to become pitied or helpless — such as when she must navigate the steep stairs in the Anne Frank House, turning a scene that could have been overwrought (and borderline offensive) into a moment of personal triumph.” Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo: James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox