Friday, December 11, 2015

Paper Towns Review

"All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I've lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters."

That quote. Sounds deep and interesting, right? 

Here is the problem I have with both the film Paper Towns and the source material it is based on, the novel of the same name by beloved young adult author John Green: when I hear/read those words, only one word comes to my mind.


It just feels so phony. These are eighteen year old high school students and yet their words feel exactly the way they shouldn't, like they are written by adults trying really hard to make teenagers philosophical and interesting. There is this uncomfortable sheen of artifice hanging over so much of the dialogue that it becomes impossible to connect with these kids or even feel nostalgic about that era of my life. The only possible way I would have been waxing poetic about paper stores and paper people is if I had just smoked enough weed to kill a small horse.

The shame of the film Paper Towns is that there is some stuff to like, aspects that cannot be ignored no matter how stilted the narrative is by the unrealistic dialogue. The performances are all admirable and I actually really like Nat Wolff a lot. He shows that he is capable of being the lead here, compared to his very charming and moving turn in a supporting role in The Fault in Our Stars. Cara Delevingne didn't really stand out but I think it was more due to the awful dialogue she was asked to delivery rather than her performance, so since I don't really know her very well as an actress I will hold off making any judgments until I see her in a couple more films.

The fact that it is the script that kills it for me is ironic because the writers chosen to pen the adaptation were exactly what gave me hope that Paper Towns would translate beautifully to the screen. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber may not be household names (although to be fair, how many screenwriters are?), but they have quietly put together quite the accomplished resume, writing wonderful films like (500) Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars. I can't make up my mind regarding whether it is even fair to blame them for this films failings though. Let's just say they had two options when hired for the gig: a) completely rewrite the dialogue to make a better film, thus angering the many fans of John Green who would look at altering his words as sacrilegious, or b) sticking with the source material and suffering the consequences.

Truthfully, the only reason this film was made was to try to ride the incredibly successful coattails of The Fault in Our Stars the year before, hoping that the popularity of the author of both books would lead to consistent profitability. It proved to be the right decision as the budget of Paper Towns was a meager for these days 12 million dollars and it raked in over 85 million worldwide. On its own merits though, the source material just isn't worthy of being a film and it shows.

A lot of talent tried to make it work here, and certain specific moments and aspects did. It isn't an awful film and perhaps others will be able to take the dialogue seriously. I just keep thinking of that one word.



1 comment:

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