Synopsis – A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.
My Take – Who doesn’t remember their first crush? The time you would happily go an extra mile to do anything for him/her no matter the consequences. Frankly, before going in to watch this film, I wasn’t expecting much. Yes, the trailer looked interesting & while many shy away from saying this but I loved author John Green‘s recent screen adaption The Fault In Our Stars! Sure, it had its mushy moments etc but the audience connected with the despair & sweetness shown in the film. Knowing this film is an adaption of another work of the same author, I expected something on the similiar lines plus not to mention my recently developed crush on Cara Delevingne. Leaving all that factors aside, the movie was definitely worth it! Coming of age films are not something new to cinemas, but yet Hollywood manages to propagate a new batch for each generation. Every once and a while, one stands out from the rest. From Rebel Without a Cause to Say Anything to Breakfast Club, this genre has provided positive memories and the lines that resonate throughout our younger years. This big screen adaption of author John Green’s novel strikes a cord & provide a voice for this generation. The story follows Quentin (Nat Wolff) , or Q as he is more popularly killed, a high school boy who has been nursing an unrequited love for the girl living next door, Margo (Cara Delevigne) since childhood. Even after when they turn 12, when Margo suddenly becomes distant, mainly due to Q’s non adventurous nature, Q never loses the affection. Suddenly one night she climbs in through his room window, the way she did when they were still kids. The next events follow an eager Q savoring the moment as he escorts Margo in her series of “small revenge” against those she thinks have wronged her, including her boyfriend Jase (Griffin Freeman), her friends Becca (Caitlin Carver) & Lacey (Halston Sage). But the levitating moment would only last overnight, because the next day, the ever mystifying Margo, disappears. Family and friends want to know where she went and the mystery deepens as Quentin finds clues about her whereabouts that Margo left behind. Along for ride our his best buddies Ben (Austin Abrams), Radar (Justin Smith), Radar’s girl friend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) & Margo’s concerned friend Lacey (Halston Sage).
Throughout the life-transitory road trip, Quentin finds out more about himself, his relationships with his friends and what to do with his misplaced love of the mysterious Margo. Throughout the opening moments of the film it feels like it was going down the predictable coming of age narrative – Boy meets girl, girl lives across the street, girl lives an adventurous life and boy pines after her from a distance, girl notices boy. Director Jake Schreier (Robot and Frank) pulls the story out of the predictable route and into the kaleidoscope of different expectations. But somehow the film manages to differentiate itself within this genre. Even within the stereotypical trappings of the party scene, suggested teen sex and proverbial geek trio, the writing lifts the story line out of the post-pubescent mire. It may seem unrealistic to think that teens could speak at the depth that they do in the film, but the characters make these lines plausible and accessible. There is a maturity with a twist of hormonal angst that gives this story the necessary edge it needs. Also, the conclusion adds the unique twist that provides a surprising satisfaction to the adventure. In the realm of teen dramas, the film does provide a new perspective on a generation, but if there are any difficulties with the film it was in the lack of parental involvement. In the typical American high-school scenarios, the lack of representation by the parents in the film does leave a hole in the narrative. The only people who seem to speak into the lives of these kids are other kids. This might be an insight on the lives of families today or a warning signal for parents to get more involved in the lives of their children. Regardless of the message that is trying to convey, the lack of any adult wisdom does leave a void in this engaging script. The film centers a love story, which seems like a fairy tale or a dream come true for its main character, that unexpectedly leads into a road trip adventure, pursuing the destiny of the two. Of all the modern Young Adult novels, this one really takes things easier and importantly positive; it doesn’t necessarily showcase the bitter side of being a young adult and instead shows the joys of the youthful rebellion and blissful bonds of friendship until they go separate ways to the next step of their lives. The love story is basically a backdrop to its sudden shift of theme. It’s sometimes a little less fleshed out, but nevertheless, this is a terribly engaging film. The best part of the film is it knows what it wants to be, but also avoiding what it seems not fond of being. The movie just wants to value the worth cherishing moments of being an adolescent and that works a lot, leaving a genuine smile at your face in the end. But the movie, while still acknowledges the existence of it, doesn’t go further on the pain or angst that their characters are supposed to be expressing. They throw away what they feel, just like that. But it’s sort of refreshing that the movie could slightly shrug that off and show more of the importance of their once in a lifetime opportunity of embracing the positive side of their youth. It’s beautiful, while still missing some parts that could have made this movie even more compelling or maybe complex, but at this form, it’s still a really nice coming-of-age film, building an appealing world to it, anyway.
Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne were perfectly cast in this teen mystery. Nat Wolff, who had a bit-part in Fault in Our Stars, takes the lead here as Quentin. His character, who is obnoxiously obsessed with finding Margo, thinks that she wants him to find her because of the clue’s he thinks she’s left him. Wolff is every bit as awkward and funny as Quentin, but his obsession makes him a unlikable at times as he delves into serious selfishness. The real success in his role comes with his natural chemistry with the other actors, especially his friends, Radar and Ben, played excellently by Justice Smith and Austin Abrams respectively. Their banter and all-around demeanor with each other comes off as a real friendship, resulting in heartfelt moments as they reflect upon their lives as well as looking towards their uncertain future. Cara Delevingne, is just perfect as Margo. Perfectly grasping the essence of her character, Delevingne—despite being absent for a greater part of the film leaves a lasting impression on all of us. Part of us wants there to be a whole other film that shows her exploits while she is gone because there simply isn’t enough of her in the film. Her coolness exudes off the screen, as does her determination to escape from the “paper towns” of America and to find present happiness as opposed to finding it somewhere in a “conventional” lifestyle. Halston Sage & Jaz Sinclair are also excellent! On the whole, ‘Paper Towns‘, is an excellent coming-of-age teen romance flick, which pulls off two easily-recognizable efforts: maintaining ‘The Fault‘s charm, while toning down its tragic notions. The latter of which, yields a more tangible and heartwarming result, capable of conjuring a lasting tug at the heartstrings. The credit for this goes to its equally-charming yet capable actors & capable screen writers, both of whom teeming with fresh and enigmatic likability. If you have enjoyed films like The Spectacular Now or The Fault in Our Stars or 500 Days of Summer do not give this a miss!
Director – Jake Schreier
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 109 minutes