Despite another less-than-perfect ending, John Green's second cinematic triumph leaves its audience uplifted in the face of imperfection.
The widely anticipated adaptation of John Green’s bestselling young adult novel Paper Towns finally hit UK cinema screens this week, nearly a full-month after its bow stateside . As a film made entirely off the back of Green’s international cinematic success, The Fault In Our Stars, which stormed cinema screens a little over a year ago, it’s safe to say that this film holds high expectations and comparative viewing.
Quentin (or ‘Q’), as played by TFIOS’s beloved Nat Wolff, has for eleven years harboured what he believes to be a destined love for his neighbour Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) – one of those teenagers who just can’t seem to be reigned-in. When the film’s main plot kicks in, nine years have passed since Quentin last spoke to his childhood playmate, their lives have diverted in the usual way; while Q directs himself on an academic path with the hopes of becoming a doctor, Margo heads up the school’s social hierarchy as the oh-so-young-wild-and-free spirit that Delevingne herself so successfully encompasses. Until one night, a week before graduation, Quentin gets the miracle he’s been dreaming of – Margo Roth Speigelman at his bedroom window in the dead of night.
“I have nine things I need to do tonight” she declares, “and more than half of them require a get-away driver.” On learning that one of these nine problems is Margo’s now ex-boyfriend, even Q’s biggest qualms about getting into trouble can’t keep him from embarking on what is to become the most rebellious night of his life so far. As the pair tear through the streets of Orlando, righting wrongs and reaping havoc on those nine deserving problems, Q begins to realise just how much life he’s missed out on.
“Will things be different tomorrow?” he asks as the magical night draws to a close. And of course, they are, just not in the way Q expected them to be, as the very next morning Margo disappears into thin air.
The rest of the film is of a course taken up by the inexorable quest to decode the cryptic clues Margo left behind with the hope of finding her. But it’s important to note that this is not another “epic love story” like TFIOS, Paper Towns is as much about Q’s Inbetweener-esque sidekicks as it is about his star-struck crush on the lost little girl he sets out to find. Q’s adventure is one recalled in laughter instead of in tears and yet it too resounds with a most indelible message; “What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person”.
I will spoil no more of the film for you now, other than to highlight the filmmakers biggest oversight in their adapting the novel to the screen to be the dismissal of Quentin and Margo’s Seaworld break-in, the most memorable scene in the book and the most glaring hole in the film for those viewers who are likewise fans of Green in print. Although, if I’m honest, I didn’t even notice its absence until reflecting back hours after leaving the cinema.
This is a film about making every second count and living each moment to the full. A film which perfectly captures the sense that it is possible for us all to be unique but the same all at once. A film about becoming more than paper people with paper degrees. Set out and enjoy Paper Towns.
Paper Towns (2015), directed by Jake Schreier, is distributed in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox. Certificate 12A.