This film has been one of those where you see the preview and have the unfortunate inkling that you may have just seen the entire movie in those few seconds. That being said, how can I begin a review of a film that everyone has seen yet not seen?
Let’s start off with the original story. Paper Towns is a novel written by the author of The Fault In Our Stars, John Green. Where The Fault In Our Stars was a completely dramatic, slightly unrealistic tear-jerker, this film takes a more comedic take on things. Directed by Jake Scheier, Paper Towns tries to replicate Fault‘s success with another story looking at dramatic moments in teen lives.
Paper Towns follows the shy and introverted Quentin (Nat Wolff) who, although he dreams of more, never takes the chance for adventure, even as a child. When adventurous and ever-curious Margo (Cara Delevingne) moves in next door, she lightens him up and creates drama in his life, always appearing at his bedroom window. After not going with her for an adventure following the discovery of a man who had committed suicide, they drift with years passing by with Quentin still harbouring feelings for her and watching her adventures from afar, until one night Margo appears at his bedroom window once more. She convinces him to take the chance and come with her as she had nine major things to do that night, plus she needed a getaway driver.
That night’s adventures would forever change Quentin’s life as Margo reaps her revenge on those who have wronged her recently and she shares her thoughts with Quentin on the fake paper towns (map creators add these to prove copyright) they live in as they look out over the Orlando skyline. Suddenly Margo disappears without a trace and her parents, instead of being concerned, pass it off as something she frequently does. Quentin is not happy with just letting sleeping dogs lie in this case and searches for clues for where she may have gone. When she usually disappeared, Margo left clues for her little sister so she knew she was okay. With the help of his two best friends, Ben and Radar, they discover all of her little clues and embark on a road trip to the world’s most famous paper town in New York State to find Margo. They also aim to make it back in time for prom (of course). The road trip turns out to be more than just that for the group as each break out of their shells and embrace life to its fullest.
Let’s address the first major elephant in the movie and that is the newly transitioned model-to-actress Cara Delevingne who was actually a nice surprise addition to the film; she fully committed to the role and brought the character of Margo to life. Easing the fears of any Suicide Squad fans about her upcoming role as Enchantress, she has made the transition nicely and seems to be embracing acting. As much press as she gets for this role, she isn’t in it a whole lot bar the major adventure Quentin and Margo have at the beginning. Something that was really well portrayed was the relationship between Quentin and Margo, where Quentin is a shy introverted kid with his life planned to a T and Margo is the flighty adventurous lost soul. They manage to create a bond that helps both souls. Margo gives Quentin a new sense of adventure; he had planned out his life but the adventure to find her makes him see his life in a new light. With their high school graduation looming, all their classmates are seeing the end and have a bucket list to fulfill, whereas Quentin has had a string of first times thanks to Margo.
Don’t get me wrong; the movie is completely dramatic, but I actually appreciate the message that they tried to put forward even if it doesn’t have the impact it wanted. However, it does have an innocence about it that makes it stand out and deliver the message. The whole teen angst finding themselves story arc has been done to death at this stage but something that was interesting in this film was the side characters and their development, however minor it was. For me, the two best friend characters and their lives were more interesting than Quentin and Margo, with Ben the over-confident boaster and Radar the settled but contained soul. The relationship between the three friends, although it was hinted and touched upon, could have been played up even more with the banter between the three of them being some of the best parts of the film. Ben’s character gave some of the best comedic content for the film while Radar threw some great one liners in there too.
Probably the best part of the film was the soundtrack; not only the guys singing the Pokémon theme song for courage, which was amazing, but the use of indie acts like HAIM, Galantis and Vampire Weekend really added to the teen angst side of things. Where these acts are not completely widely known, it makes the film flow a lot better. Movies that use really popular known songs can sometimes take away from the narrative, but these really added to the flow and feel of the film.
Overall, Paper Towns is a well-acted film that may be flogging a dead horse of a story, but it still manages to deliver a decent narrative with some memorable moments that sell it along with a wicked soundtrack.
Predictable story helped by strong acting and a wicked soundtrack.