[Movie Review] Paper Towns

“She loved mysteries so much, that she became one.”
― John Green, Paper Towns

The movie ‘Paper Towns’, is an adaption of a young adult novel, written by John Green (of the ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ fame).

A coming-of-age story, we find the protagonist Quentin ‘Q’ Jacobsen played by Nat Wolff, a straight ‘A’ high school teenager with a silent routine life, just surviving through the crowd just so he graduates without a fuss and start a new life at college. He believes that every individual deserves a miracle, and his miracle is Margo Roth Spiegelman played by Cara Delevingne, his childhood crush. They had been strangers since an incident in their childhood until one night, where she comes through his bedroom window and ‘recruits’ him to ‘correct some wrongs’. Forced into a dilemma of spending some time with the person he loves after so long, and staying out of trouble before getting in into a reputed college, he agrees to it with a condition that no laws would be broken. As the night carries on, Margo and Q enjoy completing the set tasks together, and doing things which were a first for Q. The next day, he builds up the courage to talk to her again, to find out that she has mysteriously disappeared in the dead of the night, without any note or goodbye. Heartbroken, Q gets back to his routine. Weeks pass, and he realizes certain clues around the place and is quick to assume they’ve been left for him by her; a way for him to find her and bring her home. The rest of the movie is his journey trying to figure the mystery that Margo is, with the help of his best friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), and two other students, Lacey (Halston Sage) and Angela (Jaz Sinclair).

PAPER TOWNS

Radar, Q and Ben

It’s always nice to see book characters brought to life and a new meaning derived out of the story. There will always be the never ending arguments how movies always ruin the book, but some just breathe in a new life and perspective into them. Paper Towns is one of those movies. Having read this book two years ago, it didn’t impress me as much ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ did, and I was quick to dismiss it. Now two years later, despite marathon-ing the novel for the movie, the movie mildly surprised me. Also, kudos to the fact that the movie wasn’t as complicated for non-book reading audience, unlike most book-to-screen movies these days.

 

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Q and Margo

Nat Wolff’s character in TFiOS was completely underappreciated, and you just knew the boy has so much potential. Luckily, this movie gave him that chance, and he was quite the perfect actor to play Q. Cara was basically absent from the major chunk of the movie, I was expecting her to be more mysterious and charismatic as Margo is, but it just didn’t work out. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a disappointment altogether. The movie had just the right amount of humor at the right places, with almost all the characters giving the audience something to laugh about. Ben most definitely takes the cake; he is quirky and fun and gives a good balance to the trio. And surprise cameos? My, what a surprise it was! Totally didn’t expect it, and it was a complete fan girl scream-worthy moment!

The movie isn’t your box-office breaking kind, it’s more like a subtle reminder and easy going one. There are things in life that you forget to appreciate and stop noticing, and you just need to remember that once in a while. You see the characters develop throughout the movie, with Q finally realizing what he really feels and not what he thinks he feels, and the story not only resonates with the teenage crowd but also with the adults who will always have the new beginnings to look forward to and where the fear of changes and getting out of your comfort zone can be a little daunting. If you’re looking for a movie with a happy ending with a bow on top, where the guy gets the girl and everything is alright, then it’s not for you. But to all those people who need a break and watch something light and not be overwhelmed by the plot, the movie is just the right one, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Neo-Neo Realism – Treeless Mountain by So Yong Kim

After the brutality of the World War II and with the end of the Fascist Regime in 1943, a turn of events took place in the history of film making, and emerged some notable Italian movies that took hold of the interest of the international audience. Italian directors involved themselves in what we know was ‘Neo-realism’ as a tribute to their freedom from the Fascist regime. Since the roots of this movement belong to Italy, it is commonly also known as ‘Italian Neorealism’. It existed from 1944 to 1952, later on influencing different styles in many countries all round the globe, like the ‘New French Wave’ in France and recently emerged movement called the ‘Neo- Neo-Realism’ in the U.S.

The whole idea of the neo-realism style was to portray the harsh realities of life and bring about in focus, the social-economic issues that emerged after the Second World War. Neorealism was a style that wanted to describe reality without actually involving a documentary but in form of constructed situations. If certain characteristics that make it different from other movements are to be listed, then the first in line would be the absence of a neat script. Never was a ‘happy ending’ shown in any film in this style of film making, unlike the classic Hollywood style. With this style, the shooting of films in studios shifted out to real-life locations, it was the first time something like this was done. They were moreover filmed with non-professional actors; their awkwardness and lack of self consciousness involved in acting were the most appreciated qualities.

Neo-realism spread over many countries, and movies in many languages started coming up, like Italian, French, English, Japanese, Indian, Iranian and many more. One of them is Treeless Mountain. Treeless Mountain (in Korean: Namueopneun San) is a South Korean movie released in the year 2008. It falls under the category of ‘Neo Neo Realism’ as suggested by A.O Scott, a critic, in the New York Times Magazine. The movie has been written and directed by an independent female director So Yong Kim. It premiered on September 5, 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie is about two girls, seven year old Jin and her younger sister Bin, who live with their Mom, in Seoul, until they had to leave the city and travel to the outskirts of the city, so that their Mom could leave them with their ‘Big Aunt’ and then leave to find their ‘runaway’ father. She leaves them with a piggy bank and promises them that she’ll return to them when their piggy bank was full with whatever money they got from their Aunt after they did their chores obediently. The Aunt was drunk or hangover-ed most of the time, so the girls were left to look after each other on their own. The girls try to support each other, figuring out ideas as to how to fill the piggy bank, ranging from schemes like selling roasted grasshoppers to local boys, to changing whole coins to smaller coins and increasing the quantity so as to fill the bank faster. Once filled, they used to wait at the bus stop where they saw their Mom last, everyday, from day to night. They lost hope on the return of their mother when it was revealed to Jin by her Aunt through her Mom’s letter that she won’t be returning back for them as she cannot support them without the presence of their father in the family, who is still missing. Both Jin and Bin were taken to their maternal grandparents place as instructed by their mother, and then they settle there in the countryside, obeying and doing different tasks put forward by their caring yet busy grandmother. The movie ends with the girls pinkie-promising each other, that one day their mother would return for them.

Jin and Bin fill their piggy bank, as they wait for their mother to return.

The movie, however slow-paced it is, has a largely realistic storyline. There is no ‘happy ending’ as promised by neorealists, which upholds the main characteristic of a neo-realistic movie. The movie instead ends with the girls still waiting and hoping they would have a better life and be with their mother in the future. The locations include the city, the outskirts, and the countryside. The locations chosen are realistic without much tampering done to them. From the school environment, to the middle-class flat, to the flooded market, to the simple country side, everything was naturally portrayed. The storyline even portrayed mundane, non-important activities like Jin washing Bin’s fairy costume, Jin collecting beer bottles lying in the house and stacking them in one place, thereby portraying the realities of the life as suggested by neo-realism. The movie tries to send across the feeling of being neglected, through the eyes of these kids and the cruel adult way of life that forces them to lose their innocence faster. Through the course of the movie, we can see how Jin grows and understands the reality and responsibilities that surround her.

The mis-en-scene followed in the movie is interesting too. Apart from the realistic location, the director made sure the camera was always on the eye level, and zoomed in most of the time on the faces of the characters so as to detail their emotion, innocence and intimacy, especially in the kids. As quoted by the director, So Yong Kim, she did this also so as to “include the audience in the situations with the characters, rather than observing from far away”. No noticeable background score is played in the film, though it seems sounds of the surroundings around them were given a lot of emphasis and made clear. The costumes were not anything extraordinary, with the kids repeating their clothes almost every day, like sport tracksuit and fairytale costume, portraying the hard times they were in where affording a broad collection of clothes was not easy.

The dialogues used in the movie are minimal and not that greatly elaborate. The actors chosen to do this movie were chosen merely by coincidence and luck. The kids have no acting history, and were merely chosen based on observation by So Yong Kim. Therefore, the naturalness and awkwardness the kids portrayed in the movie can be noticed. So Yong Kim merely based her script and production on luck than on logical series of film-making. This again fulfils the criterion of the use of non-actors in a neorealist film.

The rawness in the acting of the child actors, was clearly seen.

So here we can see how ‘Treeless Mountain’, even though not belonging to the Neo-realism era, still is majorly influenced by the unique style of the movement and as Neo-Neo Realism has just surfaced, it can be expected that many films would make their way through, following this style of film making.