If you have been paying attention to popular culture in the past few years, especially in the young adult vein, you have probably heard of John Green. His novel, “The Fault in Our Stars” was adapted into a popular feature film last summer. This summer marked the release of an adaptation of another one of his novels, “Paper Towns.”
This movie is the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen and his neighbor, the ever-mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo and Q are childhood friends who drift apart, until one night when Margo takes Q on a wild trip throughout the suburbs of Florida. They get revenge on those who wronged them from childhood to high school. After that night she disappears, and Q finds a series of clues she left, leading him to believe that she wants him to find her. With the help of his friends, he starts that journey to find Margo and to finds himself along the way as well. The movie pushed the idea that to find who you really are, you have to lose a bit of yourself first. This theme was so prominent that the movie poster was “Get lost, Get found,” and throughout the tour it was promoted heavily.
I thought “Paper Towns” was excellent. It’s different from many other films that I’ve seen, and I think that what sets it apart is that “Paper Towns” is a film about people, their relationships and everyday life. In many ways it’s a typical coming-of-age story, but in others it’s not. So many films focus on the drama and big changes that a character goes through, and Q goes through those changes. The push that the studio was going for was correct in that Q lost a bit of himself, and he came out as a stronger and better person for it.
Many coming-of-age stories have a character make a dramatic shift and then they end on some poignant, uncertain note. That is all well and good, but there is something to be said for a character who can learn and grow and still go back and follow what they had always meant to do, just with a broader perspective.
The exceptional thing about “Paper Towns” is its normality. It’s a story of people and friendships. Many films these days focus on the romantic angle, and it’s true that there is romance in this film. But more than anything it’s a story of friendships. For every scene with even a hint of a kiss there are at least two with friends goofing off together or talking about how much their friendships mean.
“Paper Towns” was the first movie I ever saw where a boy and a girl were able to sit together and talk, where they were able to immediately establish that there was no romance between them and there was just a completely platonic friendship. In reality, that happens and the fact that it was actually represented in a movie is something I really like.
There was an authenticity to the film that isn’t always present in teen dramas. Often, when I watch anything like this, I have to turn it off or leave because it feels so fake, but “Paper Towns” felt very accurate to me.
“Paper Towns” as an adaptation is definitely altered from the book. Starting out, the film stays fairly close, but it starts to diverge as the plot gets more complex. As is the trend with book-to-movie adaptations, the film follows an accelerated timeline from the book. Some fans of the original novel were disappointed with the film. It takes a different approach from the source text, and I’ll admit that I myself was taken aback by some of the changes. However, I have to say that overall the film stayed true to the message of the book and told the essence of the story.