Friday, July 24, 2015

PAPER TOWNS Review- Jonesy's Take

Director: Jack Schreier
Writers: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, and Justice Smith

This review originally ran on

Not sure if this trend will continue, but it seems if Young Adult novels aren't dealing with a post-apocalyptic future, then the story is dealing with an existential, I-need-to-find-myself crisis. It takes a strong film to tell a story about a teenager dealing with an existential crisis without them sounding like an angsty brat.

Paper Towns features such a pair of teenagers with mixed results. Sometimes the film is poignant and sweet, and other times, you find yourself rolling your eyes at the characters and their actions.

While growing up in Orlando, Quentin (Wolff) falls in love with the girl next door, Margo (Delevingne). Margo is everything Quentin is not. She's the stuff of legends. She's vivacious, precocious, popular, and beats to her own drum. She likes to run away from home and leaves clues for her little sister so she doesn't worry. On the other hand, Quentin is quiet, has never skipped school, and has a small circle of friends who share his nerdy qualities. Margo and Quentin use to be close friends growing up, but then school happened, and they grew apart.

Then one night, Margo ropes Quentin into a revenge plot to embarrass her cheating boyfriend and her group of friends. Quentin has never done anything like this before, so he's timid at first, but Margo begins to break is nervous exterior, and Quentin feels more alive than he ever has before.

As a character, Margo is infuriating. She's supposed to represent this vagabond mentality disguised as a Manic Pixie Dream girl to Quentin's everyman, square mentality. But the story tries too hard to make her quirky and weird. It's fine to be a free-spirit and not relate to the suburban culture around you, but the film makes her actions and dialogue almost insufferable. For example, she doesn't capitalize the first letters in a sentence, instead she capitalizes random letters because "the rules are so unfair to the letters in the middle." No one thinks or talks that way.

After their night of mischief, Margo disappears the next morning leaving clues behind for Quentin to find. Thus Quentin begins his quest to find her. His friends get roped in, but they begin to wonder if Margo ever wants to be found. This is where the film feels more genuine.

Quentin has two friends, Radar (Smith) and Ben (Abrams), and the chemistry between the three boys makes the story feel real. These boys have been friends since they can remember, and they have a few weeks left before senior year is over, and then they're off to various parts of the country for college. They understand this is coming, so this Margo adventure feels like a last hurrah for them. It's something outside of their comfort zone, and it's the type of adventure we all wanted to have with our friends growing up; something you'll never forget.

When the three of them are together discussing clues or making jabs at each other, the film is more relatable and has some genuinely funny moments. There's a particular "situation" in a car where a character has to go to the bathroom really bad, and it escalates into the biggest laugh of the film. The movie needed more moments like this, and less angsty teenage crisis.

Now, I never read this book, and maybe the book has more character development for Margo, but based on her character on the screen, Margo doesn't come across as someone I would look up to or want to be like. Her self-absorbtion would get tiresome for almost anyone, and she never seems happy, even when she finishes one of her adventures.

This might be a film for people who are fans of the book, but unless you want to watch a sad guy pine over an angsty and elusive girl, then go ahead and skip this.

Grade: C+

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