Movie Review: Paper Towns (2015)

Posted: May 14, 2016 in Drama, Romance
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paper towns

Quentin (Josiah Cerio, Nat Wolff) has had a crush on his next door neighbor Margo (Hannah Allgood, Cara Delevinge) for 9 years, ever since Margo moved in.  Their friendship faded as Margo started to hang out with the cool kids, and Quentin preferred to study and go to band practice.  Now, a few weeks before high school graduation, Margo finds out that her boyfriend, Jase Worthington (Griffin Freeman) has cheated on her with her friend, Becca. (Caitlin Carver) To get her revenge, Margo plays pranks on everyone involved, with the all-too-eager help of Quentin.  The next morning, Margo disappears, but she leaves clues behind, and soon the scavenger hunt begins.  Quentin and his friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) join in the search with Margo’s best friend Lacey.(Halston Sage) After finding several clues, Quentin thinks that he’s figured out where Margo is.  He, Ben, Radar, Lacey, and Radar’s girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) try to find Margo.  Do they find her?

Paper Towns is a very dangerous movie. It sends mixed messages to teen boys and girls, at their most impressionable time.  The first theme seems to be avoidance and not confrontation.  Margo finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with one of her friends.  Does she confront him?  Does she break up  with him?  No she pranks her boyfriend and her disloyal friends, and then leaves town.  Do her parents try to stop her?  What parents? With the exception of a very few scenes, no parents are ever shown.  Paper Towns is also about manipulation.  Margo relentlessly manipulates Quentin from a goal oriented kid into a kid who will not only commit petty felonies on her behalf, but will travel long distances to find her.  Margot manipulates him because she knows she can, and what worse, she tries to change him into a bad boy.  And Quentin allows himself to be manipulated, in hopes that, when the dust settles,  she will somehow love him. As unconventional as it tries to be, Paper Towns uses many of the same conventions of similar movies from decades earlier.  The movie features clueless parents, a nerdy guy chasing after a popular girl, and couples pairing up who had no business pairing up.  These were all plot devices used by John Hughes in the 1980’s in movies like 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club. The ending deserves some credit for straying away from the typical Hollywood ending, but that credit is short lived.  Quentin’s response to what transpires in those final scenes is so devoid of real human emotion that it strains credulity.  There are better choices than this movie or even The Fault in Our Stars.  Me Earl and The Dying Girl is a great movie, very realistic, sweet, touching and funny.  If you want to watch a romance with a road trip, watch The Sure Thing with a young John Cusack, and Daphne Zuniga.  Very funny, and it rings much more true than Paper Towns.

The acting is so-so.  Cara Delevinge is barely in this movie, and her character is so annoying that it put me off.  She did do a good American accent for a British girl, but there was nothing special about her performance.  Nat Wolff does a pretty good job as Quentin, but again is limited by the confines of the script. Austin Abrams and Justice Smith are basically comedy relief, and do quite nicely at that, but no one can or should look beyond that.  Halston Sage is objectified  in the first half of the film, and begs to be taken seriously in the second half, it doesn’t work, she’s not a good enough actress and this is not a good enough script to pull off the transition.  Jaz Sinclair is funny, and sweet as Radar’s girlfriend, but again the script limits her to a love interest only.

The direction is ok, nothing exceptional.  The pacing is quick enough, the performances were ok.  His other film, Robot and Frank was also underwhelming.

Paper Towns:  Not worth the paper it’s written on.

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