- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama
“It’s a paper town… paper houses and paper people.”
Cara Delevingne’s character is spot-on when she makes this observation early in the film. It turns out that most of the movie’s characters and relationships also feel that way; paper-thin.
Building on the success of last year’s heart-wrenching ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, this second film adaptation of a John Green novel promises to be just as meaningful.
And it certainly is. As a coming-of-age film, ‘Paper Towns’ is inspiring with its messages and achieves what it sets out to do; you do leave the cinema reflecting on several important lessons about life.
However, the distracted and shallow execution of the film makes the whole adventure feel uninteresting, even if we do get the point of it all.
MEANINGFUL AND SOMEWHAT CUTE
Natt Wolff and Cara Delevingne | Photo: 20th Century Fox
Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) is a shy and awkward teenager who has been in love with his neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), since childhood. The two grow apart by their senior year of high school, until Margo sneaks into Q’s room one night and enlists his help to exact revenge on friends who have hurt her. The often timid Q is thrilled by the experience, but finds out that Margo has disappeared the next day.
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After finding clues apparently left behind by Margo, Q is determined to track her down and pursue their potentially revived relationship. He ropes in his two best friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), for the road trip, and is also joined by Margo’s concerned best friend (Halston Sage) and Radar’s girlfriend (Jaz Sinclair). Along the way, Q reflects on Margo’s mysterious nature and realises that she might not be what he hopes to find.
Watching ‘Paper Towns’ is like embarking on a journey of self-discovery. The goals and motivations might seem vague along the way, but in hindsight, everything fits together to form a meaningful experience with a profound message about life and expectations.
Q’s experiences are almost universally relatable, and we easily share his insecurities, excitement and growing frustrations about the realities of relationships. The character’s maturation process is as natural as it is believable, and the audience learns and grows alongside him.
When it comes to Q’s road trip buddies, there is an obvious charm that comes from their effortless humour and playfulness. The movie embraces the childishness and freedom of youth – particularly its finite nature – as the characters prepare to move on to the next phase of their lives.
Unfortunately, this humour and a looming sense of mystery are the only things that keep the audience interested in an adventure that lacks sufficient motivation and suspense.
'PAPER' PEOPLE, 'PAPER' RELATIONSHIPS
Cara Delevingne | Photo: 20th Century Fox
‘Paper Towns’ has the thoughtfulness and sincerity that could make it a great movie. But what drags it down is how shallow and meaningless the supporting characters turn out to be.
A disproportionate amount of time is wasted on Q’s friends and their individual pursuits. These sub-plots are hollow with their lack of development, and what is forced onto the audience are relationships that we could not care less about.
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The one relationship that matters – Q and Margo’s – is as satisfying as the movie’s realistic tone will allow it to be. However, the element of mystery means that the relationship is intended to be only briefly explored. While necessary, this just means that there is little character development for us to cling on to.
There is no doubt that the story and its main characters were written with depth, evident in Green’s novel. Yet this potential complexity lingers throughout the movie as something that remains out of grasp.
The relationships are never developed satisfactorily on-screen, and we are left with the odd combination of shallow characters and sub-plots in an otherwise meaningful journey.
In the end, ‘Paper Towns’ does accomplish what it sets out to do as a coming-of-age movie, with Green’s profound messages easily striking a chord with the audience. However, the flat and uninteresting journey it takes to get to the heart of the movie is unsatisfying to sit through.
'Paper Towns' opens 23 July