Commentary: ‘Paper Towns’ Book, Film, and Soundtrack

Photo: Msmagazine

Honestly, what piqued my interest in Paper Towns was the movie poster (above). It caught my eye and the tagline, “Get lost. Get found,” was intriguing and relatable.

I thought it was going to be a story about finding yourself, but neither the book or movie really touched on that premise. For shame, marketing people. For shame.

They marketed the movie — and indirectly, the novel — that way, but really, both mediums were more about not perceiving people in a certain way, or not putting your expectations on them — a way less marketable concept than the universal feeling of feeling lost in life.

Even though “not putting people on a pedestal” was the message that the John Green novel was trying to get across, the film writers/producers could have made the movie more about finding yourself, which would have made for a better adaptation.

The film version also fell flat in that it didn’t have a magical quality or feeling. The characters were on an adventure, solving a mystery, but the movie failed to capture the essence of that on screen — not that the book was adept at that either.

It seems like the people behind the movie were trying to capitalize on the success of the author’s other movie adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, right away, but they could have benefited from more time to get the story right.

The film’s star, model Cara Delevingne, shows some acting potential here but it’s too early too tell for sure.

paper towns -
Lead actor Nat Wolff (center) with the actors who play his friends, Ben and Radar | Photo: 1.bp.blogspot

Also, can I just say that the casting director/make-up artist (or whoever) made the lead character’s friends, Ben and Radar, way nerdier than I imagined while reading the book. I see what they were trying to do, but they didn’t have to make them look super nerdy to make it believable that they had a hard time in high school. They just had to look normal/ordinary, like an everyday guy, similar to lead actor Nat Wolff.

So, the Paper Towns soundtrack is actually the best thing — by far. By far.

Surprisingly, you actually don’t hear much of the songs in the movie itself, so just go ahead and grab the album.

Overall, I would describe the songs as indie techno. There’s one or two songs in there that are radio hits (Search Party by Mars Bruno and Runaway (U and I) by Galantis), but they all have a similar and consistent vibe, which totally sets the mood.

Immediately, I had two favorite songs off the album: Falling by Haim and To the Top by Twin Shadow. If I had to pick just one though, it would definitely be To the Top, which is now one of my favorite songs of all time.

In fact, I had to Google what the song meant exactly to the artist and it just made me love it and relate to it more. (As of this writing, the artist’s album cover is my Facebook cover photo.)

Here’s what he had to say about the song:

“What is it when you realize that someone isn’t right for you? Or when you find that you do not and can not posses someone entirely? You want someone so bad and it feels like hell.

It’s not like the first time, once loved love evolves, and you no longer have as much control, and it frustrates you. I think because of this feeling we find ourselves constantly wanting to reset, like New Year’s resolutions, like dreaming up moments from the past where the ending flips on its head, like true forgiveness …

We just want to say, ‘Wait wait, wait, this went too far in the wrong direction. Can we try that again?'”

Ironically (yes?), that could have been another theme the  movie would have been better off highlighting. No one likes films where the message is hammered over your head, but films would be remiss if they didn’t show the essence of their stories, of what they could aspire to say to their audience.

I was really expecting the film or the book to be relatable or applicable to my life. I didn’t think it would have all the answers, but I thought it would be one of those quintessential high school movies that make you feel less alone. No such luck.

Instead, get lost and found with the Paper Towns soundtrack.

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