(Note: Like most of my movie reviews, this one is for readers of the source material and analyzes the movie as an adaptation, not a standalone work. You can read my review of the book, Paper Towns, here.)
As in the book, Quentin is a tad obsessed with the legend of Margo Roth Spiegelman, the it girl who can do anything. When she goes missing, he embarks on a quest to both find and understand her.
Both book and movie hover around the admirable idea of debunking the legend of Margo Roth Spiegelman and humanizing the unhappy girl behind it, but both fall a little short of realizing it. The movie in particular leaves Margo, I think completely unintentionally, very close to the glamorous mythical cypher she was to begin with.
The movie plot is also pretty brutally streamlined, sometimes harmlessly (skipping the search of the unfinished subdivisions and the poetry explication, fine), sometimes less so. Quentin’s whole period of believing Margo’s killed herself and is leading him to her body, a reasonable guess after everything she said and did on her last night at home, is missing, lowering the stakes and making Quentin come off even more naïve than in the book.
And as a superficial distraction, no doubt due to some odd last minute editing, Margo appears to live both next door to and across the street from Quentin at different intervals.
As you'd hope for in any good adaptation, the cast brings a lot of life to the characters. While some forced banter takes the place of the book's forced metaphors, the chemistry between Quentin and his friends is a charming, nostalgia-inducing highlight. Angela gets to come along on the final adventure in the movie version, making her more a character and less the vague concept she was in the book, and adding some much-needed consistency to Radar's arc, which involves learning to trust her enough to invite her into the weird and embarrassing parts of his life.
Quentin's progression is also brought to a bit more of a point in the end. As well as (almost) coming to understand that Margo is just a person, and not the one he’s really looking for, he gets to absorb some of the best of her along the way. Ending things at prom instead of graduation is a great choice here amid the aforementioned streamlining, the breaking down of his disinterest in prom becoming a moment of growth.
If you enjoyed the book, check out the movie, and go ahead and bring along your friends who thought the trailer made it look like a feel-good, embrace life adventure, because it is.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!