Personal Post: Thoughts on the Paper Towns Movie

Thoughts on the paper towns movie
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Thoughts on the Paper Towns Movie

I should preface this by making it clear that I love John Green. I think he’s an amazing Youtuber, and no-one has done more for the nerd community that him and his brother, Hank. The VlogBrothers played a big part in how comfortable I’ve become with my intelligence, and my passion, and for that I’ll always love them.

But I don’t like John Green’s writing. Particularly, Paper Towns.

For me, John’s voice is just too strong. When I’m reading his books, I can hear his voice; the fast pace, stopping only to take a breath; the emphasis on multi-syllabic words; the jovial tone. For example:

Your twenties are not destiny, your thirties are not destiny. Destiny is not something that happens all at once, it’s something that happens only in retrospect.

Compared to:

I’m starting to realize that people lack good mirrors. It’s so hard for anyone to show us how we look, and so hard for us to show anyone how we feel.

Can you tell which is John, and which is Quentin? (The protagonist of Paper Towns.) I couldn’t. Of course, to a certain degree this is expected. A writer without a voice of their own, is a sales assistant. But there’s a limit to how much a writer’s own voice, should affect that of the character. I got particularly irritated by the fact that Quentin – who struggles to interpret the meaning of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, and who worries that he might fail an English test – can somehow quote obscure T.S. Eliot lines like pop lyrics;

Light, the visible reminder of Invisible Light.

I studied Eliot with enthusiasm at university, but I never got round to reading ‘Choruses from the Rock’. How Quentin – a boy who apparently struggles with basic English Lit analysis – is supposed to know this line is beyond me.

My qualms with Green’s writing style aside, I thought perhaps the story would translate better on screen. After all, who doesn’t like a good teen romcom? Then I made the mistake of watching the trailer, and ruined it for myself.

The trailer is ridiculously spoiler heavy. It covers almost the entire plot, from Margo and Quentin’s night of revenge, through to Quentin getting out of the van at the end of the road trip he takes with his friends. The only thing that’s missing is the story wrap up, which (unless they’ve changed it) is incredibly disappointing. For a book that supposedly subverts the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, it sure turns Margo into a complete ass.

As for the casting, well, Cara Delevingne was a bit out of nowhere, and I can live with it. But seriously;

  1. They could have left her tattoos uncovered – Margo is supposed to be a bit of a rebel, and they had already picked a girl that looks nothing like the original description. Why not let her have her own flair? Go big, or go home.
  2. That poster (see above) – Whoever chose the photo needs their head checked. Having her hair in front of her face does not make her look “mysterious”. If anything, it sort of makes her look like Zack Efron in drag (see below). I mean no offense to Cara – she’s a beautiful woman – but that photo is just bad, bad, bad, and the marketing team should know better.

thoughts on the paper towns movieUltimately, I know it will do well. Fans of the book, and those who just like a good romantic comedy, will be all over it. Hell, I might even give it a try when it inevitably ends up on Netflix.

I suppose my conclusion is this; for the love of God, Green, get a decent marketing team. One that is not going to give away the entire plot of the movie in a two minute trailer.

If you haven’t seen it, the trailer is below. However, if you intend on watching the movie when it comes out in July, I’d recommend skipping it. Otherwise you’ll just be spending £8 to watch the end, and the end is not worth £8.

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Fifty Shades of Grey: An Idiot’s Guide to What Not to Do After Graduation

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I’m going to ignore the obvious; the poor grammar, unnecessary description and troubling representation of the BDSM community. I’m going to ignore it all, because it’s been chewed over a ridiculous number of times and I don’t have anything new to add to that conversation. Not to mention it will probably turn this post into a ball of rage. That’s not to say I hate this book (truth be told I don’t), but as an aspiring author the popularity of such a slapdash novel is infuriating, and I don’t want to ignite a fire I’ve been dousing for the past two months.

What I will say is this: as a study of love between two disturbed individuals, 50 Shades works quite well. Christian is clearly a very damaged man, with his physical scars and an inability to see his childhood molester for what she really is. Ana, meanwhile, is incredibly immature for her age, and seems to have spent her life actively avoiding romantic relationships. I can only assume this is somehow related to her mother’s series of divorces, as it’s never explicitly said. Needless to say the combination of Ana’s insecurity and naivete, with Christian’s commitment issues and sexual proclivities leads to some interesting narrative moments. Some. At a certain point, it does become a meandering waltz towards an inevitable weepy-eyed end. (Ana’s eyes, not mine.)

I will also say, that the book struck a bit of a chord with me. Having just graduated, I wonder daily what I will spend the rest of my life doing, how I will support myself, whether I’ll find someone to spend the duration of life with, and in that way I did feel connected with Ana. I can see some vague appeal in being offered a life where you will never have to make any important decisions ever again, just live and be happy. I imagine for someone like Ana, who seems (for the best part of the book) to be lacking a personality beyond confusion and blushing, it would be a very easy life to fall into. But there’s a line to be drawn. There’s living comfortably, and there’s being someone’s pet. There’s having the choice to say no, and there’s signing a contract that means you always have to be ready and willing. Ultimately, I found myself reaffirmed in my quest to live independently, and to do the things I love on my own terms.

There are also a number of other things I’ve learned from this book:

Never date someone who asks you to sign an NDA before having sex
Never date someone who can and does track you down via GPS
Never date someone who wants to buy you clothes, a phone, a laptop and a car within the first month or so of knowing you
Listen to people you’ve known for years over those you’ve known for five minutes

These are all probably common sense things, but I feel like I have to note them down anyway, for the people who did find the book, “Romantic, liberating and totally addictive”.

Finally, my opinion on the film, and it’s trailer: honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. From the look of the trailer I imagine it will be of a much higher quality than the book, and I’m very interested to see how Hollywood makes a film out of what is essentially a 514 page piece of pornography. That being said, I won’t be rushing out to see it on the silver screen. That’s not an experience I fancy having. I think I’ll wait until it’s a couple of quid on DVD.