Saturday, 26 September 2015
THOUGHTS ON THE PAPER TOWNS FILM
It's taken me a long time to get around to writing this post because for a long time I was still trying to decide how I felt about the film and whether I wanted to write this post at all. I've been a huge fan of John Green since about 2012, I read Looking For Alaska first and although I didn't love it I did love John's work as part of the Vlogbrothers so I wanted to read more. I swiftly read The Fault in Our Stars and loved it, and then I read Paper Towns.
At the time, Paper Towns completely floored me. It affected me in a way that no other book had before and I just loved it so much. I have since classed it as my favourite John Green book and one of my favourite books of all time. Since my first reading, I don't feel as strongly about it as I initially did, I'm aware that there are some thematic and ideological issues with the book and I'm not sure how much I love the overall message. I do still think it's a great book though and was looking forward to the film with huge anticipation. I went to see it with a friend and scribbled down my initial reactions immediately afterwards. What follows is a mixture of those reactions and some more coherent thoughts that I've developed since then.
When reading the book I didn't really connect to the side characters and didn't much care about their part in the narrative, but in the film they were actually my favourite part. I loved the depictions of friendship and the other relationships. The Pokemon scene was so delightfully unexpected and so hilarious and real - I really believed that these were lifelong friends. I really liked the idea that Paper Towns was as much about friendship and high school as anything else.
I thought all the performances were outstanding, Cara's perhaps a little bit less (but that's probably due to my issues with her character), although her 'American' accent didn't annoy me too much. Cara did a pretty good job of embodying the Margo from the book, I just much preferred the scenes without her in. My favourite scenes were the ones that weren't Margo-centric. And here lie my problematic feelings about the film. I thought that the attempt to deconstruct the idea of the 'manic-pixie-dream-girl' was flawed and although a good attempt was made in parts, it was overall quite confusingly delivered and I'm not sure how well the message was conveyed. I went to see the film with a friend who hadn't read the book and she kind of summed it up well: "It's like they want to make it clear that she's just a person, but that she's a beautiful, quirky, mysterious person". So still maintaining the idea of Margo as a fantasy, as a mystery. For me, it just came across as quite confusing. Although, as in the book, Q states 'what a treacherous idea it is to think that a person is more than a person', by the end of the film an air of attractive mystery still seems to surround Margo, and that really bothered me.
Ben was a standout character for me. In the book I wasn't very fond of Ben and just couldn't really connect with his character but Austin Abrams, the actor who played Ben, really pulled it out on screen and made Ben so utterly real and relateable and hilarious. I particularly liked how Ben didn't buy in to the mystery of Margo. I liked that he didn't think that Margo deserved a friend like Lacey and I liked how in a particular scene, Ben and Radar's normality and realistic reactions contrasted so strongly with Q's obsession with the mystery of Margo and threw into further relief the ridiculousness of imagining other people as mythic fantasies or beacons of beautiful perfection or 'miracles'. At times the film did really well at deconstructing this trope but it fell a little flat at the end. They just slightly missed the mark. But it's ok, it was still a great movie with beautiful cinematography, outstanding performances and a cracking soundtrack - albeit a slightly confused overall message.
I don't tend to rate movies in the same way that I do books but I did really enjoy this one and will probably be picking it up when it comes out on DVD.
Have you seen Paper Towns? What did you think?