*Warning – this post is not spoiler free*
I first discovered John Green’s books through a friend. We were wandering aimlessly through a Waterstones store looking for a new book but coming up blank. My friend then had the wonderful idea of us picking a book for the other person: something we thought they might like. I gave her a copy of Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, and she gave me The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I was sceptical to say the least as I had come out of what I call my “contemporary phase” and had moved on to fantasy in the Young Adult genre. But, part of the deal was we had to buy the book and read it. So I did. Now, to anyone on the planet who has read The Fault In Our Stars you’re probably aware of how hard it is not to fall in love with that book. I am an “author reader” in the sense of when I discover a new author, I read everything they’ve released and move on while I wait for them to write more. I unfortunately found most of his books to be subpar compared to TFIOS until I read Paper Towns.
Brief summary here: Paper Towns follows Quentin, a boy who has been “in love” with his neighbour Margo ever since she moved onto his street. They had a few good years of friendship but as happens with all children moving into their teens; they grow apart. Cut to their senior year of High School and one night, Margo climbs in through Quentin’s bedroom window and says she needs help “righting wrongs and wronging some rights” as she puts it. They have a nightly adventure and the next day she’s gone. Quentin realizes clues have been left for him and that Margo wants him to find her.
Now that’s out of the way onto some of the cast:
Quentin played by Nat Wolff
Radar played by Justice Smith
Lacy played by Halston Sage
Angela played by Jaz Sinclair
When casting was first announced I was quite surprised to see Nat Wolff given that he was actually in the TFIOS movie. However, he seemed like a decent fit. The bigger shock came in the form of Cara Delevingne. Yes, she is that “model with the eyebrows” you see adorning most billboards of the massive labels. So naturally, people were not very happy about this choice as this was her first acting role (she’s also due to be in the upcoming Suicide Squad and Pan movies) so having a model playing the “manic pixie dream girl” didn’t seem to go down well. (However, people were skeptical about the casting choice of Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters when that was first announced)
Having said that, acting wise, Cara was by far the best actor in the film and due to the plot, she isn’t even in most of it. Nat has taken to playing samey characters. In all the films I’ve seen him in he’s the awkward teenager who mumbles whenever he talks to girls. Austin played Ben as the typical best friend who’s kind of funny on rare occasions. Justice was as spot on as Radar could get and as for Halston, I don’t have much of an opinion. I really warmed to Jaz in the role of Angela. Like I said, Cara is the stand out in this film. When she is on screen, she dominates the attention in such a subtle way that you feel like if you take your eyes off her for a second you may miss something.
The central thing that makes me love Paper Towns as a story is the idea of romantic obsession. Whether we dare admit it or not, we’ve all had a time in High School where we were attracted to someone and look back on it several years later and say “my god, if only I could go back and slap myself silly!” This story takes that idea but looks at the negative side of it: what you stand to lose. The stand out points in the movie for me were when Ben and Radar find out there’s going to be a party, they’ve never been to one, and like the idea of going to at least one party before they graduate. Quentin says they can go without him because he has to solve the clues in order to find Margo. When Radar rings a few hours later, at the party, worried about Ben and needs Quentin’s help, he only agrees to show up when Radar says there may be clues at the party since it’s hosted by Margo’s ex. Even then, he leaves Radar to deal with Ben on his own. The second stand out point is when they arrive at Agloe, New York and (veering from the book) Margo isn’t there. On the trip some big things have happened: Lucy asked Ben to prom, Radar and Angela had sex. These things are pointed out as good outcomes of the road trip despite not finding Margo. Quentin however, has a big rage that the trip was a waste of time and “not fun” if they didn’t find her. He pushes his friends away to the point where they drive back home and leave him to fend for himself.
Quentin does eventually find her walking around the so-called “paper town” and they go for a drink. It’s revealed that Margo never intended for him to follow her, and we start to see the break down of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl while Quentin learns nothing will happen between him and Margo, he has a revelation that he’s been so focused on lasts due to High School ending when actually, there’s been a lot of firsts happening too. Example: this was his first road trip, the first time one of his friends had sex.
Everything I’ve mentioned so far worked well in the film but it fell very, very short of what it needed to get across. The breakdown of the manic pixie dream girl wasn’t done anywhere near enough of you, as a viewer, to see that Margo is in fact just a regular teenage girl and she isn’t the “miracle” that Quentin describes her to be. The romantic obsession, while in your face at times, doesn’t push the limits it does in the book and as as my boyfriend said to me after watching it, it felt very “hollywoodised” that this was a romance story about teenagers. Especially in the ending voiceover where Nat Wolf says that he’s stopped listening to rumours about Margo because he knows that she’s just a girl now, but then goes on to say that she’s “really something” and probably out there “doing something great.”
The film has its positives that’s for sure, Cara was the saving grace.
Everything else, just fell really flat.
Also, watch out for your may see a wild Ansel Elgort roaming around in one of the scenes. *wink wink*
If you’ve been to see the movie, let me know your thoughts!
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