A Paper Town for a Paper Girl: Paper Towns Book/Movie Review


The hotly anticipated follow up to The Fault in Our Stars (though in no way a sequel, the only relation is their authors, producers and screenwriters, but nevertheless, it is a follow up) was a film that I was pretty much desperate to see. It checked off all my top requirements:

  • A John Green novel that I adored (probably my second favourite after TFIOS, though Will Grayson, Will Grayson is close behind)
  • Nat Wolff
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Screenwriters that I trusted to faithfully adapt a book
  • Nat Wolff

Though this adaptation strayed slightly more from the novel than TFIOS (with some scenes left out and new concepts brought it) it nonetheless pretty much stuck to the plot and featured key moments and quotes that book lovers will adore.

What I like about Paper Towns is that it’s not the cliched happy ending so many ‘teen’ movies give us these days. If you hadn’t read the book, how many of you were expecting Q and Margo to run off into the sunset together? Raise your hands. I’d say a solid 70% of people were expecting that ending. But it’s not realistic. That doesn’t always happen in real life.

So many people talk about the manic pixie dream girl trope when discussing this book/movie. Let me break it down for you: the manic pixie dream girl is a character (usually female) that has no discernible talent or motive of her own and serves only to make the male protagonist realise something about himself. To an extent this is true for Paper Towns; Q does walk away from Margo with a better sense of who he is and who he wants to be. But he also realises that Margo is not the manic pixie dream girl he has built her up to be: she is not his miracle.

The beauty is in the details, that sometimes imperfection is more perfect than perfection itself. This is precisely why I’m glad Cara Delevingne was chosen as Margo. Cara is not a model because she’s flawlessly Halston Sage beautiful; she’s a model because she’s got a unique, striking beauty. Through no fault of her own, except her undeniably good genes, Halston Sage is far too beautiful to be Margo – she had to be Lacey, the character who is all the perfection that Margo is not.

Margo’s true beauty is her mystery, her personality, her magic air. That’s what Cara embodies, whilst Halston reflects the opposite kind of beauty: surface beauty. Though I’m sure Lacey Pemberton had a lot more to her than flawless hair, her surface beauty serves to show that if you put Lacey next to Margo, they’re totally different people and what makes Margo stand out and be so attractive to her peers is her mystery and her complexities. Which completely draws her away from being a manic pixie dream girl.

As Lacey and Q say, Becca has become the New Margo… only no-one could ever be the New Margo.

Though I’m a little sad the backstory between Q and Margo was left hanging and we never got to see her crosshatching stories of Little Q and Margo, the Crimefighters, the goodbye was the essential farewell. Accepting the truth and finding the consequences.

I love this story because it was so realistic and so true about first loves. We often build people up to be so much more than they are, and this way, you get a glimpse at what happens when happy ever after doesn’t quite last ever after. We pick ourselves up and we move on. There are so many people that come into our lives and have significance, but don’t make our whole lives. That’s Margo and Q. Margo will have taught Q so much he didn’t even realise, about himself, about her, about life, and in a way, through her, John Green teaches us that also.

I’m glad it didn’t end with happily ever after, though I still felt so uplifted at the end (kind of the same way I felt after TFIOS). Happily ever after isn’t realistic and these stories are.

The additional lines and concepts put in by the screenwriters do not detract from the story in any way, they only add to it and give definition and embellishment to an already perfect story.

So I thought the film was great, it had real depth and meaning and was a wholly enjoyable tale. It was a Margo, not a Becca (surface and pointless).  Austin Abrams as ‘Bloody Ben’ is a total scene stealer. Pokemon was necessary. And Ansel Elgort’s cameo was fab.

For eagle-eyed listeners (not viewers), you may have heard (not spotted) the man himself, Mr John Green, making a cameo that was not cut like his TFIOS one. I guess the director learnt from the previous film that John Green cannot act and should in fact stick to vlogging. But when you watch his vlogs as much as dedicated fans do, you can’t miss that distinctive yell.

Because we all have him to thank. Without John, there would be no story, no Q or Margo, no strings or vehicle. So thanks to John Green, Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, the whole cast and crew. You brought the page to life and life to the page.

I would recommend this film to anyone, for an enjoyable watch with a little bit more depth. I’m glad we’ve started putting realistic stories out there. No offence to all the comic book heroes, of course.

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