Director: Jake Schreier
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber and (based on the novel) John Green
Running Time: 109 mins
Release date: 17th August 2015
Paper Towns is another teenage drama from the writer of Faults In Our Stars, John Green. I liked his first adaptation up to the final act, which then became overly sentimental, So I didn’t mind entering into Mr Green’s world once more (who seems to be slowly becoming the teen equivalent of Nicholas Sparks). Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, up to a point, I was pleasantly surprised. This is more than just another teen romance.
Quinten has had a crush on his neighbour, Margo, ever since he first saw her. Yet she doesn’t seem to know he exists. Then one night, during the last days of their high school, Margo asks Q to be her getaway driver for a series of revenge acts on her cheating boy friend and those who knew about it. This rekindles Q’s feelings for the girl. The next day, she disappears. Believing that she has left a series of clues to where she is, Q drags his friends, Radar and Ben, into his world to find his true love.
What initially starts out as a boy-in-love-with-a-dream style drama; the nerd lusting after the prettiest girl in school, pushes that to the back of the memory and becomes more an examination of friendship. The first half hour is spent mainly in the company of Q and Margo and their escapades as she reeks vengeance on those who have misused her. In this time a bond is built between the two characters. The film then becomes something completely different once Margo has left the scene.
We are given a batch of literary and musically obscure clues (Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie) as Q believes she has left them for him to find her, a cry for help as you were. Obsessing with finding her, this affects his relationship with Radar and Ben, the two constants in his world. These “outcasts” who spend their time discussing females but never in graphic forms, as Radar is the only member to have a girlfriend, it becomes clear that this is more about those conversations that are never privy to the female of the species. In other words, boy talk. It then becomes a road movie, with all the trimmings that the genre brings.
One stand-out moment of the bond that unite these three is when preparing to enter a dark and deserted building, Ben becomes scared and is told by Q to sing the first song that comes into his head. Immediately the theme tune to Pokemon comes out, leading to a three-handed performance as the boys join in. This might seem like a slight and unimportant scene but it spoke volumes.
It would be very easy to dismiss this as just another John Hughes-style high school drama, which it certainly feels like but it is lifted by strong, naturalistic performances from its virtually unknown cast. Nat Wolff, an unremarkably looking young man, has plenty of screen charisma to make it seem like he’s not acting. Carrying the film, he has a presence that you can’t help by like. Super model Cara Delevingne, making her screen debut, seems perfect as the feisty, independent Margo. You believe that Q would want to do anything for her, even if it is out of his comfort zone. Austin Abrams, hilarious as Ben, and Justice Smith as Radar are perfectly suited as Q’s best friends. Their scenes hold the film nicely in place and you could quite easily just listen to their inane banter and still get some enjoyment out of it.
Paper Towns is the first of two teen dramas hitting our scenes in the next few weeks (Me And Earl And The Dying Girl being the other) and while it does suffer from a disappointingly sentimental ending (again!), it still surprised me how much I enjoyed this. Not a patch on Me And Earl (reviewed next week) but not terrible either.