As someone who has read the book, much less took notes while reading it to break it down chapter by chapter, honestly I was sort of excited for the film. Albeit, Paper Towns is my least favorite John Green book, and honestly I feel like I was meh on it overall, but there is always the chance the movie is better than the source. This is not one of those times.
Characters & Story
Margo (Cara Delevingne) is a dream girl. One who you had the rare opportunity to interact with at tone time, and since then a part of you pined for the idea of you and them being together. This, essentially, is Quentin, or Q (Nat Wolff). He met Margo 11 years from when the movie begin, and despite not talking to her for 9 years, but seeing her in passing, the feelings which grew during that two year stint remain.
Thus making it when Margo randomly comes to his window, asking him to help her commit 9 acts against those who have betrayed her, there is only the slightest bit of hesitation before Q goes with her. This sets a fire on the tinder that was once a crush, and now has blossomed into love. However, after a magical night, in which he proves his loyalty, she disappears. Leaving in her wake a mystery, one which Q asks his friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) to help with, for thoughts of Margo will consume him otherwise.
The one true highlight of the movie was Abrams as Ben. For while I wasn’t strongly into Ben in the book version, Abrams finds a way to bring both the comic appeal of Ben, as well as his annoying aspects, and combine that into a character so loveable that it makes you interesting in Abrams career in the process. For whether it was him acting as Ben during the drunken saga, or watching him mess with Smith’s character, in a bromance sort of way, he helps bring life to the film in a much needed way.
As for everyone else? I will admit that, like many, I had a raised eyebrow when Delevingne was cast as Margo. If only because I pictured someone like Mae Whitman for Margo. However, with time you get used to Delevingne’s quirkiness, and though she doesn’t fit the perception I had of Margo, she does make her own type of Margo which you can grow to enjoy.
Alongside that, I must admit I like the expanded role of Angela (Jaz Sinclair) in the film. For, even though she really didn’t exponentially expand, I feel that considering the cuts done to the film, it was nice for her to be given more screen time for it allowed Radar to be given some sort of storyline for himself. Which made it so with what is mentioned in the criticism, he doesn’t ultimately feel like a token.
Leaving one last thing worth praising, the character of Lacey (Halston Sage). Someone who, like Angela, isn’t given a whole lot to do, and probably suffered a bit due to cuts, but I do feel the actress did at least fit my perception of the character. Unfortunately, though, she didn’t get to be as featured as Lacey was in the book.
To begin, even if you didn’t read the book you may get confused at times. For one, despite what is seen in the trailer, Quentin’s parents never verbally give him the car. Also, the majority of Margo’s revenge plots are not shown, and the whole “Where in the world is Margo Roth Spiegelman?” plot is rearranged in such a way that it sort of throws off everything.
To explain, while you understand Margo is supposed to be the love interest, like in the book, it never goes past being something superficial. And while, thankfully, Q obsessing over Margo is toned down, it does make it when he goes off on Ben it seems like a severe overreaction. Especially since Q trying to find Margo is done with a fair amount of ease. There is no traveling throughout Florida to abandoned complexes, no toiling over Walt Whitman, and no signs that Margo’s disappearances, after such a hope-filled night, has damn near ruined Q to the point of ruining his academic career.
That is all wiped and though, at first, it seems like a blessing, it does make it so when Q actually gets to Agloe to find Margo, it feels anti-climatic since we saw no real struggle. Then, speaking of Agloe, with Ben not getting to comment on how much Margo is ruining senior year for them, and Radar not really getting to comment as well, it is only natural the book’s ending got changed for the film. So, rather than find Margo in some farmhouse somewhere, with everyone telling her off and then her and Q burying what they have, what we instead get is some watered down, and rather cheap, ending in which Q’s friends abandoning him in a city where he knows no one, and might not have enough money to get home, but of course he happens to see Margo just walking by and can have one final chat with her.
Overall: TV Viewing
As someone who read the book, I am astonished by how bad this movie was handled. For while Ben was excellent, and I liked the tweaks done when it came to making Angela a bigger part of the story, everything else made me wince. The reason being, it took away from us getting to know Margo to a very large extent, since her revenge plots helped us get to know her, and see her interact with Quentin. Add in that we don’t get to see Q worry to and obsess to the point of getting on everyone’s nerves, and him getting one clue after another like this is an episode of Blue’s Clues, and there becomes very little reason to get excited to see if Margo is in Agloe. Hence the TV Viewing label for, in my opinion, even if you didn’t read the book, you likely would be left wondering: “What is the hype over John Green? Is he basically going to turn into the next Nicholas Sparks in terms of having one good movie, and that meaning his whole writing collection, no matter how mediocre or bland, will end up getting adapted?”
Things To Note
Though not much is said about Mr. Wolff, it isn’t because he was bad. For he did fit my idea of Q with his cute sort of awkwardness, it is just that between the highs of Ben, and the lows of damn near everyone else, he got lost in the space in between and just ultimately didn’t stand out enough to either praise or complain about.