“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
Directed by Jake Schreier, Paper Towns is based on The Fault In Our Stars author John Green‘s novel of the same name, and tells the coming-of-age story of Quentin (Nat Wolff) and his enigmatic neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne). After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears, leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his friends on an exhilarating adventure to track her down, where Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship and of true love.
The following post is a review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book. You can read my review of the book on its own here.
Paper Towns is a light-hearted teen adventure that has a great sense of friendship and high school romance. It may not be deep or moving, but it’s all about having fun in your final days of high school, making the most of it with your friends, as you’re all at a point in your lives where everything is about to change quite drastically.
The end of high school is the end of an era and everything matters a great deal at this point. But with unwanted ends come new beginnings and, in a few months, you’ll all be starting new lives with new friends as you leave for different colleges anyway. Paper Towns is all about this moment of flux, and about finally doing what you should have done a long time ago.
With the release of The Fault In Our Stars last year, it’s hard not to compare the two films, as unfair as those comparisons will be. The problem is that the characters in The Fault In Our Stars had much bigger problems to deal with, making Paper Towns come across as the weaker of the two stories. Even though The Fault In Our Stars had stronger lead characters and an emotional premise, Paper Towns is in many ways more relatable and down-to-earth.
What Paper Towns does that The Fault In Our Stars doesn’t is to focus on friendship over love, exploring its characters on a more personal level. Green explores honest stereotypes in this realistic high school drama; it may not move you to tears, but there’s certainly a lot to take away from it, and a lot of fun to be had along the way.
The film, especially, focuses on the adventure and excitement of these final high school days, following a brilliantly cast bunch of characters to enjoy the journey with.
The performances from Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne, most notably, are excellent, and it’s their chemistry that makes this film so enjoyable. I can’t believe how brilliant Delevingne was in this, and I really hope we see her in more films in the future.
Whilst I will go into all of the changes from the book to this film adaptation, what I did prefer about the film was the way it ended. When reading the book I didn’t particularly enjoy the last few chapters. Margo is moody and is annoyed with Q for trying to find her when that wasn’t what she intended at all. The film handles these final scenes much better, with a better emphasis on the film’s message: don’t judge somebody because of the role they fit into it, because even if you think you know somebody, you may be surprised at the different layers that one person can have.
Differences From The Book:
Paper Towns is a lovely story to be told as a film, bringing to life energetic characters and taking us on a road trip that we won’t quickly forget. As an adaptation, the story is transformed onto the big screen incredibly well, although it does have its fair share of alterations:
- In the book, Margo moves next door to Q when they are both 2 years old. In the film, they are clearly much older, but it would have been difficult to use younger actors for this scene, especially since the purpose of it was to emphasise that Q had fancied Margo since he first saw her.
- There’s no mention of Radar’s obsession with editing Omnictionary in the film. The website is used, but they do not talk about Radar’s involvement.
- There is no instant messaging between the group in the film. This would have worked really well, as many films (included The Fault In Our Stars) have recently begun showing the use of text messaging and emailing in attractive visuals on-screen.
- In the book, Margo has 11 things to do, but she only has 9 in the film.
- There’s no mention of Karin in the film. In the book, Karin is the only person to tell Margo the truth about Becca and Jase, so she leaves her a bunch of flowers on their night of revenge.
- In the book, Margo puts a catfish in Lacey’s car but, in the film, they wrap it with cling film.
- In the book, Margo and Q break into SeaWorld after their night of revenge. In the film, they do not, which means that we don’t get to see Margo get bitten by a snake and Q have to suck out the venom.
- In the book, Q has to literally take Margo’s door off the hinges to find her note. In the film, it’s not hidden as well.
- Q spends a lot more time investigating abandoned buildings in the book, whereas much of this is skipped in the film.
- In the book, you actually think that Margo might be dead. The film doesn’t have this sense of fear running through it, which loses some of its impact.
- In the book, prom happens much earlier on. Q doesn’t go and instead spends the night looking for more clues. In the film, the group are rushing back to make in it time for prom, which Q manages to get to in time.
- In the book, the group ditch graduation to go on the road trip, setting off on the road in their robes without any underwear underneath.
- Angela doesn’t go on the road trip in the book and, therefore, Radar does not lose his virginity. In the book, Angela is angry at Radar for going since they had “big plans” for that night.
- And finally, the ending is very different. In the book, the group find Margo in a barn writing in a journal. Margo’s a lot angrier at the group for having tried to find her, but they all stay the night with Q falling asleep with Margo and the others staying in a motel. In the film, the group leave Q so that they can make it back to prom, and Q finds Margo in a nearby town as he’s buying his bus ticket home. She’s less angry but they still go their separate ways nonetheless.
Paper Towns makes both a lovely quick read and a light-hearted afternoon watch. You won’t be left in awe by either, but you won’t necessarily be disappointed, either.
You can buy Paper Towns by John Green here or listen to the audiobook version for free with a 30-Day free Audible trial on Amazon.