Review: Paper Towns Has A Message I Appreciate But Lacks Proper Execution
Title: Paper Towns
Director: Jake Schreier
Screenwriter: John Green (author), Scott Neustadter (screenplay), and Michael H. Weber (screenplay)
Principal Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, and Jaz Sinclair
Summary: A young man and his friend embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.
I have never really been on team John Green when it comes to writing. I’ve flipped through a few of his books and I have a few friends that absolutely adore him, but I just can’t bring myself to love them unconditionally the way some do. I saw The Fault In Our Stars last year and cried just like everyone else, but I wasn’t quite singing its praises as much as other people were. I do appreciate what Green is usually trying to say in his novels more than the actual execution so I’ve been mostly forgetting Paper Towns was coming out, save for the occasional ad on the internet or trailer before a movie.
Paper Towns is yet another John Green production where I respect and appreciate where he was going with the story but the execution just doesn’t quite stick for me.
Green is a Young Adult writer so all of his stories have to deal with either teenagers or people in their early twenties. Paper Towns is one of those teenage stories as Green tells his version of senior year for kids and young love. The trailers, I feel, have been selling a different movie than the one that I saw. I usually try to avoid trailers, as I’ve said in the past, but this is one I saw quite a few times for some reason. They seem to be pushing the romance of Paper Town when the finished product is much more a story of growth than romance. When you’re a teenager everything is dramatic, everything is important, and the characters of Paper Towns are no different. I think it’s one of the reasons that so many people relate to Green’s work.
For some, however, Green’s writing and stories are almost taking on a Joss Whedon type feeling. What I mean is that there are times when watching Joss Whedon productions where everything kind of falls apart as you realize that this is not how people talk and act in real life. No one is really that witty when they talk and I feel as if Green is similar. There were moments, for me, when Margot (Cara Delevingne) or Quentin (Nat Wolff) were talking and it didn’t feel like two people talking but dialogue from a book. It was like the lines were blurring and I could see the grown man writing the young people instead of just seeing the young people. This was a problem I had with The Fault In Our Stars as well, and it might just be the way Green writes and me not enjoying it as much as others.
To explain the part of the movie that really works the best for me might require a spoiler warning but I’ll try to be as vague as possible. If you don’t want to be spoiled even inadvertently then skip to the final paragraph. I was fairly lukewarm on Paper Towns for a majority of the movie until the ending. Without naming any specifics I really liked what they did with the ending, and I also liked the point that Green and director Jake Schreier were trying to make with the movie. I liked the ending more than anything else in the movie and it was enough to elevate the entire experience for me. It upended my expectations in a very real way that made the entire movie and story much more moving. I’m just not sure the rest of the movie is as good as the ending.
Paper Towns might lose its focus at times as the lines between character and author blur, but the purpose of the piece comes together very well in the end. I’m not entirely sure I’m entirely on board with the journey but, in this case, the destination might just be worth it.