The plot may get a little far fetched, but the heart of the latest John Green YA novel film adaptation, Paper Towns, is certainly in the right place. After last year’s huge success with Green’s mega best-selling The Fault In Our Stars, it should come as no surprise that 20th Century Fox would come running for more of the same. But as I say in my video review (clink the link above), this movie has a different, less emotionally manipulative tone than that tragic teen romance did.
Plus, Paper Towns (the title refers to an ancient practice of mapmakers to insert fake names in order to prevent plagiarism) has its own rhythms, somewhat reminiscent of past coming-of-age films like Stand By Me and Frank Perry’s classic Last Summer in which the main characters experience the last pangs of youthful security before heading out into uncharted territories alone in the cruel world.
Here, Quentin (aka Q played by Nat Wolff, the best friend in Fault In Our Stars) and Margo (hot model turned actress Cara Delevingne) have grown up as friends, living across the street from each other, peeking into each other’s room through their entire childhood. But by the time High School rolled around they lost touch and went their own ways. Q became more buttoned up than ever, while wild spirit Margo became the most popular girl in school. However, the plot gets rolling when she shows up one night at 11 PM enlisting Q to join her in wreaking vengeance on her cheating boyfriend. After that crazy ride, Q is transformed and thinks they have deepened their own relationship into something more when suddenly Margo disappears. She’s a gone girl. In fact as the mystery deepens around her disappearance I was starting to think this is sort of a Gone Girl Jr. Having run away many times before, she leaves some clues behind for Q and he becomes obsessed in tracking her down so he enlists his best buddies Ben (a terrific Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) along with two other girls Lacey (Halston Sage) and Angela (Jaz Sinclair), and embarks on a road trip from Orlando to New York where Q is convinced he will find her in one of those “paper towns” her clues point to. But this being about High School kids, they must be back in time for the prom. Along the way there are life-altering events and Q, in particular, learns that life is to be lived vividly and completely while you still have the chance.
This is really Wolff’s movie and he’s quite good in the lead role. Delevingne has a face the camera loves and clearly a future in movies. This is a nice, small slice-of-life film enhanced overall by its fine young cast and smart direction by Jake Schreier. The sensitive screenplay adaptation from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now, (500) Days Of Summer) captures the essence of Green’s 2008 novel, and probably gives it a little more gravitas than it had when originally published before Fault In Our Stars made Green a rock star in the world of teen literature. You do believe this is the way kids act and talk, and despite contrivances, the film ends on a satisfying note for this genre of movie, a cut above a lot of what passes for “teen movies” these days. The Fox 2000 and Temple Hill production was produced by Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen. Fox opens it wide today.
Do you plan to see Paper Towns? Let us know what you think.