Directed by Jake Schreier Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage
Review by Keiran Freemantle
Author John Green has had great success with his novels targeted to a young adult audience. The adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars (2014) was a huge critical and commercial success and the same production and writing team were hoping to repeat that with the comedy-drama Paper Towns.
Quentin AKA “Q” (Nat Wolff) and Margo (Cara Delevigne) are neighbours and childhood friends who grew apart as they got older. Q is a nerdy kid who wants to become a doctor and Margo is a popular yet rebellious girl who keeps disappearing. But on the eve of their senior prom Margo asks Q for his help with her revenge schemes against her cheating boyfriend and his cohorts. By this Margo gets the boy to find his lighter, freer side. After that night Margo disappears again and leaves clues for Q regarding her whereabouts. Q with his friends, Rader, the nerdy black kid (Justice Smith), Ben (Austin Abrams), basically Jay from The Inbetweeners without the vulgarity and Margo's best friend Lacey (Halston Sage) set out to find the clues and piece together the mystery that Margo has left behind.
Paper Towns is a film that is made for its core demographic of teenage girls, a coming-of-age tale that aims to show the depths of teenagers beyond their sub-groups. It plays out like an updated version of a John Hughes film as teenagers from different walks of life come together to solve the mystery that is Margo as their time in high school comes to an end, a period of hell in form for most people. Despite characters being in certain cliques, Green and the screenwriters aim to show there is more them than what is on the surface suggests, whether it is taking Q out of his comfort zone, showing Margo to be an arty hipster beyond her popular girl image and Lacey states she is a smart girl beyond her beautiful image.
The humour in Paper Towns is of a light-hearted nature resulting in small chuckles, but no major laughs. It suffers the same problem that affects a lot of comedy-dramas, it is not funny or dramatic enough, aiming for an unsatisfying middle ground. The most humorous parts of the film come from the dialogue as characters having exchanges with each other. The relationship between the three male friends was very realistic, they took the mick out of each other in form, like Rader's relationship with his girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair), Radar's parents’ embarrassing collection and Ben saying he fancies Q's mother (Cara Buono) - again being like the lads from The Inbetweeners and this does makes Ben grating at times. Woolf, Smith and Abrams had excellent chemistry together and their interactions seem very natural and were fun to watch. They felt like they really have been friends for years. The film is about the friendship between the boys, the end of chapter in their lives and their parting of ways as much as it is a story about finding Margo and having characters taking risks.
Other jokes involve an African-American character accidentally wearing an inappropriate t-shirt, thought recent events in South Carolina make it a much darker joke then it was intended to be and on the road trip the film lifts another joke from The Inbetweeners is one from the episode "A Night Out in London". Some jokes do fall flat and feel out of place, like a moment at a party that was awkward then funny.
Delevigne as Margo has some witty lines being a quirky girl with a capital Q when she appears in the first act of the film (she writes notes with capital and small letters anywhere in a word) and her pranks raise a smile. Margo was Delevinge's first major film role and she gives a solid performance having a charm despite well being a selfish young woman who plays games, only cares for living for the moment and is overly idolised by Q. We are set to see her again as Enchantress in Suicide Squad.
Paper Towns is Jake Schreier’s follow-up film from his directional debut Robot & Frank and he brings a certain flash to the proceedings. His cinematographer David Lanzenberg gives Paper Towns a bright, sun-drenched look, particularly for scenes with Margo adding to her seemingly being a dream girl. There is also a jovial soundtrack to adds to the mood of the film.
Paper Towns is a soft comedy-drama that has excellent cast and will appeal to teenage girls and fans of Green's work but beyond that the film is average.
Watch the Paper Towns trailer below...