Paper Towns: Film Review
Cast: Cara Delevingne, Nat Wolff, Austin Adams, Justice Smith
Director: Jake Schreier
The road to coming of age films is littered with many entries, each of them iconic to their generation.
But as the audience grows and yearns, their desire to get a new self-knowing and quintessential entry of their own increases.
2014's The Fault in Our Stars was such an entry into the pantheon. Author John Green cashed in on the sick-lit genre and breathed a new life into a genre whose viewers had seen it all, with two leads that sparked amid the tropes of the genre and raised the material above its intentions.
Paper Towns feels like a slight but retro entry to the field, using its MO to remind teens that sometimes life is about the journey and not the ultimate destination, as well as dishing out some life lessons that are obvious to anyone over a certain age.
This time around, it's free spirit and impulsive versus safe and steady in the story of model Cara Delevingne's Margo and Nat Wolff's Quentin. Friends from first meeting, the duo's paths intertwine but rarely intersect, but one night, the enigmatic Margo bangs on Quentin's window and begs him to come with her on an adventure one night.
But the following day, Margo disappears, and a series of clues are left behind for Quentin to decipher as to her whereabouts. So, grabbing his two best friends, Radar and Ben, the group sets out to track Margo down.
Paper Towns will in no way match the success of The Fault in Our Stars.
Going more for cute and twee, this road trip flick occasionally meanders en route to its destination. The easy bond between Quentin and his buddies is nicely explored, but there's no real learnings here or insight into the human condition, merely an acknowledgement that leaving high school is the start of something new and your comfort zone is about to be shattered.
The film's best asset is a dusky-voiced Delevingne, who imbues Margo with a spiky free-as-a-bird-yet-troubled mentality and who impresses greatly in the early scenes. But, narratively, she's missed from the film and spends great swathes of it as a gone girl, and really the film suffers from her absence and infectious vulnerability and joie de vivre.
It's not that there's anything wrong with a sincere Wolff et al, just that the safe revelations (OMG, who knew the hot girl could have slightly geeky leanings) and bland life lessons lead to particularly unsurprising moments; while there's a minor subversion of the tropes at the end, the final result is no less surprising.
The Fault In Our Stars star Ansel Englort makes a brief cameo aimed at tipping a wink to the teens who will lap up this film, but it has to be said Paper Towns feels slight in its intentions and resonance, perfectly adequate in its execution and pitched squarely and modestly at its teen audience who will adore it.