I have always sworn by the motto ‘The Book is Better than the Movie’, but in this case, I am still yet to read the book.* However, I LOVED this movie. It is the perfect balance of quirk, mystery, adventure and laughs.
*(please don’t kill me! I’m starting the book right now…)
*This review may contain spoilers*
This is one of those movies in which it was all the little things that won me over. Little references, quotes, ambiances; you get the gist. As a viewer who has yet to read the book, I had that rare experience of being able to watch the film as a stand alone entity, without judging its every move and questioning all the small changes and minor details. Yes, stories relay differently over the different mediums and most of us understand that, but sometimes some things just don’t translate well from page to screen at all, even if we want them to. I’m not going to look at any of that here though, especially seeing as I don’t have the knowledge to do so properly, hence, I will leave that comparison for the book review.
The film, from the get go, set up the characters really well. I was particularly fond of the casting of the younger versions of Margo and Quentin, who are not only great little actors, but bear enough resemblance to their older counterparts to be believable, and good casting like that makes me happy. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly keen on Cara Delevingne as Margo, even though I didn’t have any particular affinity with her character, other than what I had seen in the trailer; but after a few minutes with her on screen, I was drawn to her, to Margo and to her portrayal of Margo; she made the character for me and I don’t think I would have liked her half as much had she been played by someone else. Nat Wolff as Quentin, though, was hands down, dare I say it, perfect. Mainly because I didn’t have any predisposed idea of the character in my head, but also because he just seemed to play it so easily, so naturally. While these two are a little older than their on screen counterparts, their portrayal of these teenage accomplices are totally on point.
The story itself drew me in quite quickly, and held me most of the way through. I have to admit, I was sure I had it all figured out, and I’m really, really glad it went a different way to what I was thinking. None of the classic 80’s, over-the-top, fairytale happy ending; no – this film gives us, somewhat, realism. While it was unlikely that Margo, as an 18-year-old who hadn’t yet graduated, could run away to a remote town and settle down with no money and no real idea of how to survive in the Real World, it was realistic that she only really saw Quentin as a friend, and an ally and not necessarily as a love-interest, no matter how much he had built up the idea in his own mind. It would have made more sense at the end though, they they all get grounded and not be allowed to go to prom for disappearing without any notice and driving halfway across the country, but I suppose they must just have super-cool, relaxed parents.
The journey to the end point itself though, was fun, and left me sorely reminiscent of days when I could just pack up, jump in my car, and drive. Just drive to see where we ended up, or plan to go somewhere we had never been before and head there without agenda. It made me miss the strong ties of friendship you form in the uncertain and dangerous years that are High School and reminded me, somewhat soberly, of the way life tends to move us apart from those we no longer need as we move on to new stages in our lives. This film felt, at points, more adult than it’s YA label, and even though I am over a decade older than these characters, it honestly reached me on so many personal levels, particularly as self-discovery doesn’t necessarily end in your late teens/early twenties. Case in point: a special mention has to go to the scene where the three male leads need to sing a song to stop the abandoned store they are led to from appearing too frightening, and when they started singing the Pokémon theme song full pelt, I inevitably found myself singing (and dancing) along with them, right there in the cinema that held mostly adults, some of whom occasionally claim me as a friend. And I felt alive.
The scavenger hunt that Quentin undertakes to try and find Margo is detailed enough to create an enjoyable and engaging storyline, but not over the top enough to make it tacky or unbelievable. There is just the right amount of clue-finding and self-exploring. the tone of the film is right for the age of the main characters, but also tastefully very now, and will hopefully hold it’s value for a long time to come without ageing. This film feels like it has the capacity to hold strong within the generations, much like its predecessor The Fault in Our Stars, and possibly become a classic in it’s own right.
Bottom line is, this is a great movie, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys movies about self-discovery, contemporary films, and feel-good films you can relate back to real-life. An up-to-date Perks of Being a Wallflower, but with cooler pop-culture references (Pokémon FTW!!)
Side Note: The cameo by Ansel Elgort was completely awesome, well placed, and insanely cute. I even found myself fangirling a little, even though I’m not that much of a TFIOS fan, just the connection to a previous John Green film was enough to make me smile like a geek.