After the recent film adaption release of John Green’s Paper Towns, many people have naturally compared the debut to last years tearjerker The Fault In Our Stars. But despite the similarities and comparisons, which film comes out on top?
The evaluation of both novels affects the outcome of the viewers decision, some people watching may already be biased due to admiring it from a literary perspective and not a cinematic one. Personally, I preferred TFIOS as Paper Towns actually bored me and I didn’t find myself connecting with it. Because of this, I wasn’t as excited for the movie. A love story or a cathartic, inquisitive adventure? It depends on your preference but I was pleasantly surprised by Paper Towns and it’s recent $3.3m debut in the UK seems to agree with me.
Paper Towns might seem like a love story on the surface but its about friendship and dealing with isolation and sexual confusion in high school. The protagonist isn’t a female cancer patient but an alienated, besotted teenager named Quentin Jacobson (Nat Wolff). Fun fact, Nat actually starred in TFIOS as blind patient, Isaac.
It’s easy to watch the film after TFIOS and feel disappointed at the flat moments and lack of emotional trauma, but for me, Paper Towns turned out to be the better film. Yes, TFIOS had more emotional depth but it happened to be a love story. The vulnerable, alienated actions of Jacobson come across as more charming. The themes of sexual awakening and social anxiety are more relatable to the average teenager and the cast pull it off with vigour.
Paper Towns has similar themes to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, another film about a male lead navigating the troubles of school and relationships. Quentin isn’t completely on his own though as his two fun and horny friends Radar and Ben (Justice Smith and Austin Abrams) provide the comic relief as they help him realise his true feelings.
Quentin learns that obsessing over a crush can lead to consequences when you let that person pioneer your happiness and control your feelings, he doesn’t really know who Margo (Cara Delevingne) is and that’s the problem. We are always more significant, flawed and complex than what people paint us to be, especially in high school when there is so much pressure to conform to a stereotype i.e (geek, jock or cheerleader). And this is what John Green is trying to let teens know.
Casting wise, Cara is enchanting as the mysterious and playful Margo, her scenes are vibrant and her American accent is surprisingly good. The smart thing about this casting is that, anybody familiar with Cara and her social life will know that you can actually imagine Cara pulling off the pranks that Margo drags Quentin into. Although some have argued that the actress cast should have been more average and less ‘supermodel’, her bubbly and eccentric personality comes across in the film and makes the movie more enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing to watch than sob-fest TFIOS.
To further the casting choices, I’ve always had problems with Nat Wolff as Quentin, this is largely due to the fact that I disliked him in James Franco’s indie film, Palo Alto; I never thought much of him until I saw Paper Towns. He did a brilliant job as the awkward teen with a high school crush on his next door neighbour. And as the movie neared its finish, the ambiguous ending concerning Margo lets the triviality of the love story slip away and John Green’s message of social adversity within high schools sink in.
However, it has to contend with the more popular The Fault In Our Stars which not only has more emotional depth, but is more cinematically pleasing. I remember even misting up at the trailer so the anticipation was vast. I don’t want to say I was majorly disappointed because I wasn’t, but it definitely didn’t deliver in the way I had hoped. Shailene Woodley carries the film as cancer patient Hazel Grace Lancaster, a shy and vulnerable girl who falls in love with Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), another cancer patient with an affliction for cigarettes. Their emotional ups and downs pull at the viewers heart strings as you watch them find and lose each other on the road to a little bit of infinity. There are some no-no scenes such as their passionate make out session in the Anne Frank house which comes across as uncomfortable and slightly insensitive. But their love is very honest and it can’t be compared to Margo and Quentin’s because as Margo puts it ‘you picked me and I picked you back’.
The now famous quotation “I fell in love with him the way you fall asleep, slowly, then all that once” maybe describes how people felt about this movie as it neared its emotional crescendo, but for me, it didn’t take as much as I thought it would.
To conclude, TFIOS is by far the more emotional film and for me, the better novel, but Paper Towns has better casting, themes and hidden symbolism than its more popular counterpart. So for me, Paper Towns is the winner.
What’s your opinion? Which do you prefer, book and film wise?