The release of John Green’s second novel-to-film adaptation is finally upon us and we’re all too excited to run to the theaters to watch it over and over again ASAP. Paper Towns has been at the top of our list of movies to see this summer, so when we were invited to an early screening of the film, we obviously accepted. The movie is a gold mine, as far as life lessons and complex subjects are concerned; not to mention the amazing musical choices and talented actors that make this film so special. Here’s why Paper Towns is not just another teen flick:
1. The characters actually look like they’re in high school.
Can we all just agree that it’s time to stop casting 30-year-olds to play high school students? This whole phenomenon pretty much gives kids unrealistic expectations of how they’ll look when they hit high school. That’s why one of our favorite things about Paper Towns is that the actors are around the age of actual high school seniors. It’s pretty refreshing.
2. The characters encourage us to imagine people more complexly.
Actress, Halston Sage, who plays Lacey does such a great job of making her character complex and being more than what people expect her to be. Lacey’s the typical, blonde popular girl, but she’s also smart and a really good friend to Margo. But people don’t always see that in her. We sometimes have a tendency to do this to people in real life. We’ll put them in categories and then fail to see all that they are actually capable of. Paper Towns does an excellent job of reminding us not to judge a book by its cover. People are more than one thing and it can be easy to forget that.
3. It questions why we wait for things to make us happy, instead of being happy in the moment.
There’s a scene where Q is explaining to Margo why he can’t get arrested during their night of antics. His reasons mainly involve him wanting to grow up, be a rich doctor, being married, and having a house and kids. He wants all of these things so that he can “be happy”. Margo is aghast at this. But isn’t this what most of us think will make us happy? We’re all so in a rush to get somewhere else because we think we’ll be much happier when we get to that point. Margo questions why Q can’t find happiness in his current situation as an 18-year-old, high school kid with great friends and a generally good life. And she’s right. Be happy now because if you spend your life waiting for happiness, you might be disappointed with the outcome.
4. The comedy packs a punch.
Every scene involving Quentin, Ben, and Radar is absolutely hysterical. The actors play off of each other so well that you can tell they’re friends in real life. The video game scene will have you cackling in the back of the theater and so will the entire road trip segment. Depth and humor.
5. It urges you to get out of your comfort zone.
I think we can all find a little bit of Q in ourselves. Sometimes, we’re too scared and unwilling to try things we normally wouldn’t do so we never get the chance to expand our horizons and get out of our comfort zones. Margo puts this reality into focus for Q, by forcing him to do all of these crazy pranks. Margo really shows us that the most exciting parts of life exist outside of our comfort zones.
6. It reminds us how special the end of something can be.
Whether it’s high school, college, or the end of a summer, there’s something bittersweet and beautiful about endings. Paper Towns doesn’t fail to remind us of that feeling by setting the story in the last month of Quentin’s senior year while also urging us to look at the next chapter, the next beginning.
7. Margo destroys the “manic pixie dream girl” concept.
This is not a typical teen romantic comedy. Paper Towns is actually far from this genre of film. Perhaps the most important detail of the film is that the romance between Q and Margo doesn’t go as viewers will expect. Margo absolutely shatters the “manic pixie dream girl” concept when Q figures out that she’s not all that he expected.
In an interview I did with John Green for Indianapolis Monthly, he summed this point up perfectly:
“…any portrayal of women in films as something other than human beings is destructive. It’s tremendously destructive to the role of women in the social order. It’s just another way of enforcing institutionalized sexism, so it was really important to me. I think Cara really did an amazing job of making Margo human and real, and making her choices make sense within the world of the character. But it was also really important that Q understood that he was doing Margo—and also himself—a great disservice by imagining her as more than a person, by thinking she was this, like, superhuman angel who existed to be an object that he would win in a quest, and that’s just not what people are. People are not miracles, and they’re not objects to win. They’re people.“
8. The soundtrack is killer.
Director, Jake Schreier, did an excellent job of selecting songs that fit all of the movie’s themes: love, confusion, hope, nostalgia, disappointment, and just plain fun. That feeling you had at senior prom? There’s a song for that (“Falling” by HAIM). John Green also made it a point to include a song from one of his favorite bands, The Mountain Goats. In my interview with John, he said:
“Every day, the whole shoot, I would wake up in the morning at like 4:30 a.m., and Jake Schreier (the director), Isaac Klausner, and I would drive together to the set, and at some point in that drive I would say to Jake, ‘You know would be good for the soundtrack? The Mountain Goats.’ And then every day in the six months after the shoot, before the movie came out, I would say to him, ‘We should have The Mountain Goats on the soundtrack, Jake. We should have at least one Mountain Goats song.’ And it worked.”
Other notable tracks include Nat & Alex Wolff’s “Look Outside”, a beautiful, rainy-day-anthem-of-hope song and Sam Bruno’s super fun, pop-y “Search Party”.
All Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox