John Green writes and co-produces the film adaptation of his novel, Paper Towns. Just like The Fault In Our Stars, Green’s other successful book-made-into-a-movie, fans of the novel will love the film. However, to enjoy this film, one must have a high willful suspension of disbelief.
Director Jake Schreier works with Green and a talented young cast including Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne. There are lots of great things to say about Paper Towns, but there are almost as many negative things to say about it as well. If you’re in high school, maybe early college, Paper Towns will feel slightly relatable to you. All in all, the overarching word I’d use for the film is “cute”.
Ever since she moved across the street from him when they were kids, Quentin (Nat Wolff) has decidedly been in love with Margo (Cara Delevingne). It’s clear to him from early on that she is everything he’s not – outgoing, adventurous, bold, and unafraid – but everything wishes he could be. Never one to put a single toe out of line, Q regrettably lost his chance to become her sidekick when he was younger, and the two grew apart. However, that’s never stopped Q from admiring her from afar. One night during his senior year of high school, his wishful thinking becomes reality; Margo comes in through his window to steal him for an adventure. After having the best night of his life with her, Q is positive that everything will be different. Instead, Margo disappears, leaving behind difficult clues for Q to find her whereabouts. He embarks on this mission with determination and his two best friends, finding himself trying stuff he never would’ve imagined.
I mentioned that there were lots of both good and bad elements in this film, so let’s jump right in with the good. Cara Delevingne did quite a remarkable job as Margo. The plot literally revolves around Margo, but she’s the character with the least amount of screen time. In the opening scenes, we see just enough of her to get a sense of her personality and to realize her effect on helpless Q. Nonetheless, Delevingne makes Margo unforgettable, leaving a mark on the audience with the limited amount of time she has. Something I exceptionally liked about Delevingne in this role was that she’s not overly pretty, but there’s definitely a wild look in her eye that makes Q’s feelings for her understandable. A lot of Margo’s appeal is her free-spirit personality, and Delevingne does a superb job conveying this. Wolff wasn’t bad either, but his performance just doesn’t stand out as much as Delevingne’s does. A final thought on the actors: It’s so refreshing to see high schoolers being played by actors who don’t look like they’re pushing thirty (Yes, Glee, I’m looking at you!).
There are a few plot inconsistencies that I just can’t ignore. For example, when the gang embarks on their road trip to find Margo, Q’s friends dramatically shove a rest stop into four minutes (they move like it’s life or death), panicking the entire time. However, when the trip becomes deterred by hours the travelers don’t seem to care at all. Also, the plot almost plays out like a teenaged version of National Treasure (2004). All of the “clues” Margot leaves are farfetched, and it seems implausible that anyone would be able to connect them to her whereabouts. But if you’re able to convince yourself to believe it, then so be it – you’ll love the plot.
Although I’m really caught up in my problems with the plot, I also greatly appreciated the messages Green includes in this story. Anyone in or fresh-out-of high school will find the film’s themes relatable. Leaving the theatre, my first reaction to the film was “I wish I’d seen this three years ago,” when I was sixteen. Paper Towns truly speaks to young people, and it will definitely enforce the importance of friendship, learning to go beyond your comfort zone, and realizing it’s okay if you’re still trying to find yourself.