Paper Towns Movie Review


Last night, I finally went to see the film adaptation of John Green’s novel, Paper Towns.  I went with a group of former students who are just as obsessed about all things John Green as I am, so it was only appropriate that we see this film together before we all head off to school for the upcoming year.  I will be the only one returning to high school; they will all be freshmen in college.  Can you sense the feels setting in?

Anyways, we all met and everyone had previously read Paper Towns, but with mixed reviews.  About half of the group had read all of John Green’s novels, the rest had only devour his top 3 (in our humble opinions):

3.  Paper Towns

2.  The Fault in Our Stars

1.  Looking for Alaska

The last time I had read Paper Towns, I was still in Alaska and was in the middle of my John Green marathon of reading.  I had already read the other top 3, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  By the time I got to Paper Towns, I admit that I may have been a bit burnt out, from reading and island life, so upon reflection I may have judged the book too harshly back then.  I really didn’t connect with Margo, the radiation she gave off that enticed Q so much, but I loved the first half of the book (9 things to do tonight) and the friendship between the protagonist, Ben, and Radar.

That was four years ago, and I hadn’t read the book since.  As the release date approached for the movie, I decided to reread the book, and sadly, I only reconfirmed my first opinions.  It’s a beautifully written book, but I couldn’t agree with the agency to run off to New York that grew out of living across the street from Margo Roth Spiegelman.  But then again, I’m not an 18 year old male.  To me, she wasn’t really a character, but an object.  My friend, Amy, put it quite precisely when she said, “I only saw Margo as being a “person of interest” to someone the way a forbidden object is. It’s desirable until you have it and then once you do have it you realize that it wasn’t such a big deal.”

Be that as it may, I went into the movie with an open mind because it’s still John Green, and I loved Nat Wolff in “The Fault in Our Stars.”  It will always be a pleasure to watch his words come to life.

Post Movie Watching…

I was not disappointed.  That’s an awful way to start a movie review, especially when you proclaim to have such admiration for the author who penned the novel it was based upon.  It was a good movie.  There.  That’s better, right?  Ok, so I didn’t leave the film with as deep a visceral reaction as I did “The Fault in Our Stars,” but you cannot really compare the two movies, the characters in them, or their objectives.  Plenty of films, their sequels, or other films based upon the works of the same author/director/actor don’t get the same applause as others, so this is natural.  However, I feel guilty for not liking the movie as much as I could have.  It’s best to ensure that I am separating the issues I had with the movie versus the issues I had with the book.

Let me be very clear here:  I still don’t like Margo Roth Spiegelman as a character, but I think we saw a giant step in the career of Cara Delevingne.  She has hauntingly beautiful features, and she carried off the grit of her character well.

I loved the entire cast with the exception of one actor: Nat Wolff.  I heard someone in the theater say, “I liked him better when he didn’t have eyes.”  Ouch.  I would suggest that yes, he was better in “The Fault in Our Stars,” and it may just be that he’s more suited for playing supporting roles and not quite ready for “leading male.”  I just had a really hard time taking him seriously after I made this connection:


This is definitely not an attempt to make fun of Nat, or his acting, but I definitely got a strong “Confused Adam Sandler” whenever Q would sort of look off to either contemplate the repercussions of his next step or taking in the aftermath of what he had just done.  It happened a lot in the film, a distracting amount in fact, and it was difficult as an audience member to appreciate the silent mentality of Quentin.  I wanted more from him because I really do like the character.  I just couldn’t connect with this portrayal.  But, like a lot of film adaptations, it’s not easy to get all the intricacies of a character and their internalization across on the screen, and such was the case for Q and “Paper Towns.”

There were a few issues I had with how quickly certain areas of suspended disbelief were to have occurred, but my biggest was that we never really did get a strong sense as to why Margo would up and leave for a paper town, and why the five-some would get into a van (that apparently their parents were totally cool with them taking and going on a two-day road trip during their senior year – and we take issue with Margo’s parents!).  I get it because I read the book and I’m a human: we go to seek adventure and create memories.  Plus, they’re teenagers and innately impulsive.  One last escapade before “adulthood” because we are talking about five very serious-minded teenagers who are on paths to very prestigious future colleges/futures.  It was a very calculated risk they all took, and the camaraderie built between the three male friends and the expanded pack that included Lacey and Angela was very enjoyable to watch.  I wanted to see more character development for our two leads: Quentin and Margo, or at least the enticement of her.


When it gets right down to it, you can’t really review a film based on a novel without blurring the lines between your opinions of both.  In the end, it was a fine film adaptation.  There were moments of pure joy and hilarity, and a cameo that made us jump up and clap in our seats.  Perhaps I didn’t find as much comfort in watching this film because I was left unsettled from the novel.  It would be unfair to pin the responsibility of the director, actors, or even John Green’s role in the production on this film to make up for what was missing on the page.  Ultimately, I’m glad I saw this film and I’ll be preparing myself for the eventual release of the Looking for Alaska adaptation.

Final Review: 3 of 5 Stars

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