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Translating a book into a movie is an art, but doing it successfully is an even bigger challenge. Book-to-movie adaptations need to be as faithful as possible to the original plot of the book while maintaining the same levels of depth and development. Including all of these elements is nearly impossible, but it takes the right blend to allow a story to render seamlessly from page to premiere.
“Paper Towns,” the film adaptation of the acclaimed book by John Green, released in theaters on July 24, 2015. Although the movie’s plot deviated from the book’s at times, the film managed to communicate the same themes and morals that were expressed in novel form. The movie didn’t surpass the book, but it was a passable adaptation.
The film “Paper Towns” tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff), who has lived a life free of risk and chance. Q has been hopelessly in love with his eccentric neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), since she moved in when they were kids. Q and Margo were friends when they were little, but have since grown apart. However, one night during senior year, Margo climbs through Q’s window and draws him into her night-long escapade of revenge. Q drives around Orlando with Margo, helping her enact vengeance on various classmates, and finally steps out of his comfort zone. At the end of the night, he is exhilarated and elated, and returns home excited at the prospect of spending more time with Margo before senior year comes to a close. But when he goes to school the next day, he finds that Margo has disappeared. Desperate to find the girl he believes is his “miracle,” he follows a series of clues that he believes she has left for him in order to find her and bring her back home.
Though “Paper Towns” was mostly true to its novel precedent in terms of plot, the pace of the movie felt rushed. In order to fit multiple plot points into a 113-minute timespan, the movie crammed events together one after the other. I was able to understand everything that happened in the movie, but the pacing was not as smooth compared to the book.
In addition, the film had a much more optimistic tone in terms of the search for Margo than did the book. In the novel “Paper Towns,” Q finds a disturbing message seemingly from Margo during his search and fears that she may have committed suicide. Q begins to wonder if his quest for Margo is really a series of clues leading him to her body, and this adds another layer of suspense to the book. In the movie, the prospect of suicide isn’t brought up, and the movie is simply a hunt for the missing Margo rather than an investigation into her character.
Despite these issues, the film did have many positive points to it. Q isn’t alone in his search for Margo, and he enlists the help of his two best friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith). The bond between these three boys was equally as strong in the movie as it was in the book, and the scenes with them together were very real and brilliantly executed.
The best aspect of “Paper Towns” was its ability to get across the main theme of the book. In the book “Paper Towns,” Q is desperate to find Margo because he loves her, but also because he perceives her as a miracle. Quentin sees Margo as a mystery needing solving and therefore becomes obsessed with the thought of finding her. But by the end of the book and the movie, Q realizes that he has been in love with the idea of Margo rather than the person herself. Margo Roth Spiegelman, though adventurous, is just a girl, not a miracle or an enigma. Q became so consumed with the prospect of finding Margo that he forgot to consider what, precisely, he was looking for. The movie conveys this point masterfully, tying together novel and film with tremendous skill.
The “Paper Towns” movie wasn’t perfect, but as Margo would say, it was “pretty something.” Though the pacing of the movie left something to be desired, the convincing acting and clear message made it a fun and satisfying watch.