Follow TV Tropes


Film / Paper Towns

Go To

Paper Towns is a 2015 romantic mystery comedy-drama film directed by Jake Schreier and based on John Green's novel of the same name. It is the second Green adaptation after that of The Fault in Our Stars in 2014, and was adapted for the screen by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who also adapted TFIOS.

Quentin "Q" Jacobsen (played by Nat Wolff, who also played Isaac in the TFIOS film) has been in love with his enigmatic neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) since childhood. She cracks open a window into his home one night and takes him on an all-night adventure through their hometown; when Q goes to the school the next day, he discovers that she has suddenly disappeared.

Q soon realizes that Margo had left behind a series of cryptic clues, which urges him and his best friends Ben Starling (Austin Abrams) and Marcus "Radar" Lincoln (Justice Smith) to embark on a search for her. In the process, Q explores his relationship with his friends and his compatibility with who Margo truly is, as the closer he gets to finding her, the less he sees the girl he thought he knew.

The rights to the film adaptation of Paper Towns had been optioned since at least 2008, when the novel was released. The film stays mostly true to the novel, with some elements changed to differentiate them approved by Green.

The film features examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Q's search for Margo in the pseudodivisions and the suicide subplot were ultimately cut.
  • Adapted Out: Karin is never mentioned or seen in the film.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: You'd be as embarrassed to bring girls home as Radar if your parents owned the world's largest collection of Black Santa Memorabilia consisting of 1200 pieces.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Paper towns".
    • "All the strings in him broke."
  • Ascended Extra: Angela gets left behind in the book during the road trip; in the film, she gets to go, giving her a bit more focus.
  • The Cameo:
    • Ansel Elgort appears as the gas station clerk.
    • John Green as the voice of Becca's father.
  • Beta Bitch: Becca is the second most popular girl in school, after Margo, and is much bitchier than her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Margo's alive, Q understands her much better now although still not perfectly, and they even kiss but she's leaving, and Q has to go back to his life.
  • Black and Nerdy: Radar has many nerdish affinities like his friends.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Q to Margo, and in the final scene, she admits that the crush was mutual, and that she was also too shy to say anything.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: As Psychologists, Q's Parents are pretty good at reading People. Not so much at reading their son though. Q points this out at one point.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Some rather large cuts were made from the second third of the story, most notably Quentin's fear that Margo killed herself ( she didn't) and his studying the Walt Whitman poem, the latter's importance in the film version being reduced to just the line about doorjambs.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gus, the security guard's role as a Urban Explorer is cut leaving his role in the film to just a quick scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Margo's revenge on Lacey, especially considering the reason for her revenge turned out to be baseless.
  • Hidden Depths: This whole film was about making an effort to get to really know someone as liking them only as something more than they are will not lead to a strong relationship.
  • I Will Find You: Q to Margo, after her disappearance he devotes a good portion of his life to finding her.. Whether she actually wanted to be found is another matter entirely.
  • Kitsch Collection: Radar's parents have the world's largest collection of black Santas. Radar (and presumably his parents) are black, but Radar is understandably hesitant to bring his girlfriend over to meet his parents and see his house.
  • Literal Metaphor: Margo leaves a clue by highlighting a line from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself": "Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" The gang considers various metaphorical meanings, but the actual clue meant that there was another clue hidden inside one of Q's door hinges.
  • Lonely at the Top: At the end, Margo confesses to Q that she wishes she'd have stayed with his geeky crowd instead of becoming popular, because at least his friends are loyal.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Margo, at first. Except she's a Deconstruction, since a key point is Q's realization that "She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl." Her Stepford Smiler aspects come from the fact that she has to be this. It’s what people expect of her at this point and she feels if she doesn't behave in such a zany way, people will hurt her or grow bored of her. Still, even as a bit of a deconstruction, she did re-enter Q's life with the express purpose of making him more interesting and life-seizing. Though a big part of Q's journey is realising that she's a real person who isn't responsible for him and has her own problems and fears. He then lets her, and the dream of her, go.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Both Margo and Lacey get to wear some low-cut tops, with the former in a Navel-Deep Neckline red dress during Q's fantasy of her.
  • Nice Girl: Lacey. She comes off as spoiled and a bit shallow, but very, very loyal to her friends and ultimately glad to be friends with Q, Ben and Radar.
  • Noodle Implements: Has the same examples as in the book but Mountain Dew is subbed out for Red Bull, which ends up playing this straight as it's never seen again unlike the Mountain Dew that get consumed by Margo and Q at the end of the night.
  • Opposites Attract: Ben and Lacey. Excitable geek who is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, dating a Lovable Alpha Bitch? Believe it or not, they're not just dating, but incredibly happy together.
  • Potty Emergency: Ben ends up peeing into a beer bottle because the gang can't afford to stop their car for bathroom breaks while trying to reach Agloe in time.
  • Product Placement: The Red Bull that Margo and Q buy.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Radar is very fond of reminding Ben, Q, and Lacey of that time they spun around multiple times in their car, swerved off the road, nearly hit a cow, and somehow managed not to die (indeed, no one had so much of a scratch). Specifically, every five minutes. An hour after it happened.
  • Side Bet: When Radar admits he told Ben and Quentin he and Angela have sex, Lacey hands Angela a bill and says she thought Radar would be able to hold out until they got to Scranton.
  • Stepford Smiler: Margo, although even this is more complicated than it usually is. She puts on a fake character for so long she finds it too much to handle that she runs away to really find herself.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: During their trip to find Margo, one of the major concerns the gang has is that they won't make it back in time for Prom. Many commercials for the movie reveal the scene where the gang is dancing together at Prom.
  • Visual Pun: When Little Quentin first lays eyes on Little Margo, his ball drops - that is, the basketball he's holding.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Margo capitalizes random letters in a shopping list because "the rules of capitalization are so unfair to the words in the middle". It becomes a plot point later as Q identifies her as the writer of an anonymous post because of the random capitalization.
  • With Friends Like These...: Margo's boyfriend was cheating on her with her best friend Becca.