Review: Paper Towns
PLOT: After spending a night with the girl he loves, a young man soon realize that she has seemingly gone away for good. Soon, he discovers a series of clues that sets him off an adventure - along with his friends - to find the one that may have got away.
REVIEW: There is something sweetly fantastical about the new teen romance PAPER TOWNS - a place on the map that doesn’t exist created to protect against copyright infringement. The new film is a drama, a romance, and a hint of a mystery. Thankfully, there is much to admire. With a script co-written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber - who also co-scripted the hit adaptation of yet another John Green work, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS - there is a joyful energy throughout. It also helps that the cast, led by Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne, are able to generate humor and honest to goodness emotional connection to the audience. It may not quite reach the heights of films like ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL or THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, yet it is easy to go along for the ride.
The very moment nine-year-old Quentin “Q” Jacobson saw his next door neighbor move in, he fell completely in love. Margo Roth Spiegelman was something special, and the two young neighbors quickly became best friends. Yet they grew up and faced high school, things changed and they each took very different paths. Seventeen-year-old Q (Wolff) lost his spirit for adventure - something Margo (Delevingne) had not - and became closer to his best friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith). That is, until one fateful night, Margo returns to Q’s window asking him to ride along with her on a night of retribution. After sharing a crazy night together, he finds that she has run away from her home, school and all her friends. Yet after finding a series of clues she has possibly left for him, he and his pals soon take on a life changing road trip in a search for his missing love.
PAPER TOWNS has a ton to offer. It is sweetly romantic - maybe a little overly so - and it features an impressive performance from Nat Wolff. He is able to give the lovelorn young romantic heart without succumbing to what could have been forced sentimentality. When he entertains in a little trouble and mischief with Margo before she takes off into the great unknown, it is easy to be taken in on their late night excursion of revenge. Delevingne offers a mysterious and inviting soul that has grown tired of her surroundings. She is a teenager with a need to escape, and the actress shines even though she only has a few scenes in the film. However, the moments the two share are quite magical thanks to the impressive chemistry between them.
As far as the supporting cast, Ben and Radar grew on me after awhile. Abrams nerdy and awkward wannabe player was tiresome in the beginning, yet once he broke out of the stereotype he was quite good. It was a real pleasure to watch Abrams, Smith and the two gal pals they bring along - Halston Sage as Lacey and Jaz Sinclair as Angela - bond over their adventure from Orlando, Florida to New York in a search for Margo. In fact, one complaint is that the eventual road trip ends far too quickly. It would have been nice to see these characters discover more things about each other along the way. Rarely do modern movies feel too short, but this seemed a bit rushed. Not surprisingly, director Jake Schreier made the shockingly short - yet also very touching - ROBOT & FRANK.
Weber and Neustadter, who wrote the wonderfully quirky (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, THE SPECTACULAR NOW and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, do a nice job of giving Q and Margo life on the page. The two have managed to craft teen friendly features that don’t insult their subjects. Occasionally the dialogue runs the risk of sounding a bit silly, but somehow it all works. And even though you are fully invested in the characters, the lack of interesting adults involved in the story is a bit disappointing. Not a single teacher or parent leaves any sort of impression. Sure Q and company are high school seniors, but you’d hardly know that they actually had parents at all with their constant sneaking out and driving half-way cross country exploits.
PAPER TOWNS may not be the perfect teen romance, but there is something special about it. Q and Margo, as well as their circle of friends, make for a group of people worth investing in. This coming-of-age tale seems impossibly romanticized, yet somehow it still manages to remain grounded and truthful. As well, both Wolff and Delevingne work beautifully together even if their screen time opposite one another is limited. As someone who has not read the book, I couldn’t say how closely the script follows it’s source material, but coming from an outsiders perspective, it certainly works. It may be a tad underdeveloped as far as the story goes, but this fanciful young adult story is worth traveling along with.