Like the idea of Margo Roth Spiegelman, the idea of Paper Towns is much better than the thing itself.
If you read the review I recently posted of John Green’s novel version of this movie adaptation (click here if you haven’t and would like to double your reading), then you’ll already know that I was pretty disappointed in the final product of what had such a seemingly promising premise. Even so, I still had hope that a movie could take what works with the book and turn it into something better. Overall the movie succeeds here and there, but for the most part the story is still the story, and that’s the movie’s greatest downfall.
To boil it down to its simplest form, the story of Paper Towns is a love story between a high school senior and his neighbor, or, rather, the idea of his neighbor. To Quentin, Margo Roth Spiegelman is simply the best in every way, a goal to reach for. Everything seems to be coming up Q when one night she asks for his help in going on a quest for revenge, but just when you think everything will be different come morning and Q just might get the girl of his dreams after years and years of pining, Margo Roth Spiegelman has disappeared. Not quite the change Q hoped for…
Even if Paper Towns has the casting of Cara Delevingne working for it, the night between the romantic leads falls short in bringing us to the same levels of admiration for Margo Roth Spiegelman that Q is at. She’s cool, I’m sure, and I love her choice in shoes, but it will take much more than Converses and a ridiculously smooth somersault through a window to make what comes next seem worth it. Once Margo Roth Spiegelman makes her escape, we have to want to find her just as much as Q does considering this is the driving force of the story, and I just don’t know if she is really worth all the trouble after spending so little time with her.
Actually, I know she isn’t worth the trouble. Like I said in my review of the book, no matter what happens in the end, whether Q finds her or not, there is no conclusion that will be as satisfying as we want it to be. The film seems to understand this unavoidable problem more than the book did, so instead of focusing on Q’s obsession and mission, it focuses more on his relationship with his two best friends, and the adventure they share together in trying to find Margo.
Even with the better company, the quest for Margo doesn’t end up being as epic as I hoped for. This makes sense within the context of the overall story being told when looking back on it, but considering the message the film goes for, I wish there had been something a little more grand about it all. One of the clues doesn’t have to lead them to the cockpit of a spaceship at the Kennedy Space Center or anything like that, but at least throw in an amusement park or something to up the excitement levels. Everything just seems so normal. I wouldn’t say it was boring, nor did I not enjoy the ride, but you just want something more to live up to the myth. Again, an argument can be made for why it is the way it is, but I say if we are going to believe in the myth of Margo Roth Spiegelman for as long as possible then up the ante.
Clearly the author, the filmmakers, and I disagree on how this story should be told. I get what they were going for, but that doesn’t keep me from looking for improvements. Maybe then, no matter what happens at the end of it all, no matter if Q finds Margo or not, I will at least find satisfaction. But unfortunately I find myself wanting more.