Confession: I didn’t finish reading “Paper Towns,” but I legitimately started reading it at a bad time — right before finals started kicking my ass. If you want to read a great review of the book, check out Lifestyle Editor John Lineberger’s review of it right here. I felt a little disingenuous going into the film, because I obviously didn’t read the whole book, but it wasn’t one of those, “Screw it. I’ll just see the movie” situations — it was the awkward in-between, where I had to clock the exact moment in the movie where I stopped reading the book.
This made for a really strange movie watching experience — one that I really would not like to experience again. But let’s be real here. I feel like every John Green book takes the same structure in one way or another. No shade, just the real tea.
I’ll admit, I was excited to see “Paper Towns,” if not only to see one of my queens, Cara Delevigne, in her first mainstream acting role. (I don’t count the video on demand release of “Face of an Angel.”) I expected something from her, ditching the runway for young adult literature adaption and the upcoming DC Comics film “Suicide Squad” (the trailer for that made me cry, no shame).
Obviously, she can act from all these roles she’s securing, right? Right! Delevigne is actually a great actress, who really fills the mysterious shoes of Margo quite well. I mean, even if she did poorly, how could we criticize those eyebrows, am I right? Luckily, she has both the acting chops and the eyebrows to die for. How dare she.
Nat Wolff plays the central protagonist of the film, though, as Delevigne exists mostly in idea rather than in true form. Wolff plays Quentin, an awkward kid hellbent on finding Margo after she runs away the night after an adventure the two of them shared together after years of separation. Wolff is great here too, really playing the truly believable awkward kid we all knew, but never really took the time to know outside of the occasional conversation in the hall. Wolff and Delevigne’s chemistry also is something to be noted, as it plays really nicely together, even if there isn’t supposed to be the typical “sparks flying” chemistry we’re used to seeing on screen, it’s nice.
Once the film picks up, “Paper Towns” is a ton of fun, even if it doesn’t break much ground in the way of teen movies. Sure, the film deals with some painfully cliché topics that almost every coming-of-age teen film deals with and coats it in pretty pretentious dialogue that occasionally is a little cringe-inducing in how self-congratulatory it is. But these scenes are offset by some quite touching scenes as well, even if they are contrived.
“Paper Towns” goes on the road trip we all wish we could’ve gone on in high school, and perhaps I might’ve shamelessly envied the characters for all the fun they were having. The fun in “Paper Towns” is infectious.
Director Jake Schreir does some fairly inventive things with “Paper Towns,” transforming it into a visually interesting film. Utilizing cool transitional footage rather than conventional fades and really utilizing all of the quirky atmospheres and environments that the film takes place in, rather than simply placing a camera in a corner and shooting, making “Paper Towns” an incredibly attractive film to look at, on top of its attractive cast.
So “Paper Towns” is pretentious and pretty cliché, so what? I had a friggin’ blast with the film, even if there were some issues. It’s definitely more enjoyable than last year’s “The Fault in Our Stars.” Delevigne and Wolff are great in the film, and Wolff plays great with the supporting cast as well. It’s well directed, to boot, which isn’t commonly seen on films of this scale.
“Paper Towns” is not as groundbreaking as it wants to be, and it’s not a movie that was necessarily made to be seen on a big screen, but if you’re a fan, you’re going to want to see this in theaters with other fans, and if you’re skeptical, a matinee ticket certainly wouldn’t hurt you to try out. If you’re looking for infectious fun at the movies, “Paper Towns” has the goods, even if it doesn’t always hit it’s mark perfectly.
Directed by: Jake Schreir
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevigne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair, Cara Buono.
Runtime: 109 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity – all involving teens.
Fox 2000 Pictures presents, a Temple Hill production, “Paper Towns”