Paper Towns Review
Reviewed by Owen Bush.
After last year’s gigantic success of the elegant and sophisticated adaptation of John Green’s angsty and ambitiously written The Fault In Our Stars, comes, obviously, another stream of ready-to-go books that are sure to make a lot of businessmen very happy as they watch fangirls and fanboys alike sobbing their way into the theater whilst paying for the dubiously increasing price of the ticket. This year sees a book that, in its entirety, is all about how people aren’t living their life to the fullest and should be taking every step for granted, a theme that is subtle in its execution. However, Paper Towns, whilst a brilliantly inspiring and indulgent flick, is flawed by the hungry businessman who wishes for the film to be as big as The Fault In Our Stars – for Paper Towns is a quiet, subtle, inspiring indie movie, squashed into a meaty blockbuster sandwich.
Maybe that introduction sounded a little harsh, because, okay, yes, Paper Towns is a tasty sandwich, but the real deep flavour is riddled within an excessive need for big-named stars and a thirst for it to fit to the cultural understanding of your local movie-goer for it to be as much of a money-making success as The Fault In Our Stars was. Paper Towns becomes too safe in its gruesome diversion of cliched romance, for, even in the end, the movie’s core theme that “you should move away from the norm” dwindles into something that doesn’t leave a large enough taste in your mouth for you to want to take another bite. Paper Towns ends up being too much like the norm. Instead of following in The Fault In Our Stars’ vanilla but sensitive footsteps, Paper Towns should’ve been a much deeper and more fruitful indie revelation.
This may be down to the casting, which, whilst may be the reckoning for the film in terms of style and substance, manages to actually, in contradiction to it wounding the theme, bring about some understated and honest acting talent. Nat Wolff manages to distinctly represent Q in the same light as in the books, specifically, as tempers start to boil, Wolff captures the essence of a teen growing into adulthood with his fragility seeping through from his utter need to find Margo. Cara Delevingne is exploding on the acting scene lately, and many screamed at John Green (whom quickly stated he had nothing to do with casting) about her being cast as Margo. However Delevingne is a subtly entrancing and elegant actress whom gracefully reveals Margo’s need for escapism of her paper world. The band of misfits around the gang add the appreciated comedic element, which, added charisma and character to the story in many quirks similar to the book, making sure, that alike TFIOS, Paper Towns is committed to the source material in a multiplex of melancholy ways.
Although not original enough to stand out, Paper Towns is a damn good adventure, it makes sure to hold the mystery throughout and almost doubt your instincts (even if you have read the book). Specifically, the road-trip scenes instantly made me want to do something recklessly and ridiculously risky, and you’ll leave Paper Towns inspired, just not as much as it could’ve been if they had focused less on likability and more on the danger of doing something poignant and substantially unique.
What some reviewers obviously don’t understand is Paper Towns isn’t meant to be a romantic getaway, it is, indeed, the polar opposite of that – a deeper lesson in the corruption within teen identity in society. Yet, unlike the book, the movie tends to almost want people to see it as a romance, teasing looks and soft cliched lines almost make the darker elements of the story seem randomly placed and unnecessary for such a film. It leads on romance, and the mystery takes a whimsy backseat – you’re still intrigued to find Margo, of course, but in a ‘I wonder if she loves him’ way, rather than a ‘where the actual hell is this girl’ way.
On the other hand, Paper Towns does a very fine job in teaching a lesson, although the movie’s ending just never seems to come with excessive scenes, it does repeat a morally complex and imaginative idea that becomes rather lackluster and cliched in some movies, drilling the message of “living life to the fullest” in the quietest way, through the eyes of a confused and inspired teenage boy, and nothing more. Which, ironically, is the exact opposite to what I’ve critiqued Paper Towns for. Because the movie is too safe in its indie nature doesn’t mean it can’t easily convey this harsh reality, but in its entirety, the movie should’ve been a little more risky in the portrayal of such ideas.
Paper Towns is a safe, enjoyable flick, yet, it lacks substance and credibility in its lack of individuality – which, to be fair, in a market largely dominated by teen-romances, it’s hard to find your own take when there’s so many that follow the same path. The crucial moral intentions are suitable, but the darkness that lurks within the book is only merely glimpsed upon and leaves the movie with a soft, fragile but elegant taste.