PAPER TOWNS (USA/12A/109mins)
Directed by Jake Schreier. Starring Cara Delevigne, Nat Wolff, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair, Caitlin Carver, Halston Sage.
THE PLOT: Ever since they were young friends, Quentin (Nat Wolff) has been in love with his neighbour Margo (Cara Delevigne). Over the years, the two grew apart, so Quentin is surprised when Margo turns up one night demanding he drive her around since she has nine things to do in one night. After a night of adventure and fun, where Quentin falls even deeper in love with Margo, she simply vanishes. Quentin quickly realises Margo has left clues as to where she has gone, and rounds up his friends to help track her down before prom.
THE VERDICT: PAPER TOWNS is the second film based on a John Green novel to be released in the past 18 months – the other being THE FAULT IN OUR STARS – and although this is another tale of first love and romance, it feels far less doomed and much more hopeful than the one that went before it.
Cara Delevigne is engaging and mysterious as Margo; the kind of girl that people flock to, and want to emulate, Delevigne brings the character beautifully to life on screen. Although she is not actually in the film that much, Delevigne is the one whose absence haunts the rest of the characters, and she is impactful enough to make this work when she does appear. Nat Wolff plays Quentin as a romantic, gentle soul who is completely fascinated with Margo and the idea of a happy ending. Austin Abrams and Justice Smith play Quentin’s friends Ben and Radar, and the three are lovely together on screen, both when they are playfully teasing and egging one another on. The rest of the cast is made up of Jaz Sinclair, Caitlin Carver and Halston Sage, with a surprise and small appearance from Jay Duplass.
John Green’s story, written for the screen by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber seems to be one about endings, but is really one about beginnings and moving forward with life. The dialogue is full of clever lines and romantic notions – Quentin’s voiceover opens the film declaring he believes that everyone gets one miracle, and his was Margo Roth Speigelman – and Margo is idealised enough for her randomly capitalising letters within words because ‘the rules are so unfair to the letters in the middle’ to be enigmatic, rather than simply annoying. The film is essentially a road trip coming of age tale, but rather than boobs and beer, the characters get up close and personal with their ideas about love and their preconceptions about other people.
Director Jake Schreier does well enough when the characters are based in Orlando; Delevigne is the heart and soul of the first half hour, but the pacing and magnetism of the film suffering as soon as those left behind hit the road in search of Margo and adventure. That said, the film does capture the feel of mystery and those final days of school rather well, and allows the characters to cling to their last days together without ever becoming too sentimental. As well as this, the film is resolved in a way that tilts expectations slightly, while still being a little trite, but still satisfying.
In all, PAPER TOWNS is a sweet story about the expectations we have about love, and the people in our lives. Cara Delevigne is great in her first leading role and Nat Wolff captures the feel of a young man experiencing love for the first time. There are times when the film feels overly long and rather convenient, but it is resolved in a satisfying, if sentimental manner.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Paper Towns
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Sweet story about love
  • filmbuff2011

    Last year’s The Fault In Our Stars was Hollywood’s first stab at the young adult novels of John Green. It was impressive for being so honest about its characters and their fates, as well as its fine performances. More adaptations were sure to follow, starting with Paper Towns. Q, or Quentin (Nat Wolff) has always grown up in admiration of the literal girl next door, Margo (Cara Delevingne). Drawn to both her looks and her free-spirited nature, Q never quite made the transition from friend to boyfriend. In fact, they’re not as close now that Margo has a boyfriend. Or at least, used to. For one night, Margo sneaks in through Q’s window and entices him on a night of adventure: plotting revenge against her now ex-boyfriend for cheating on her. The next day, Margo disappears from school and her home. She doesn’t show up again, but her parents are confident that she’s just left to find a new life now that she’s an adult. Q then discovers a trail of clues that could pinpoint Margo’s whereabouts. So, he sets out on the road with his buddies to find Margo – and hopefully, finally win her over… Paper Towns is a reference to a fictional town on a map put in by cartographers to prevent copyright violations. It also stands as a metaphor for the headspace of Margo herself. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, preferring instead to wander wherever she wants and wherever life takes her. Q can’t quite understand that, given that he has plans to be perfectly conventional and be married with kids by 30. That emotional and character distance between them is what makes Paper Towns a little less ordinary and predictable. That seems to a common trait in Green’s work, but here it results in a film ending that is lacking a little something. That would be a proper conclusion, given that it feels wistful and hopeful, rather than satisfactory. But that’s not to detract from the rest of the film. It’s not so much about the destination, it’s about the journey. In the hands of the talented, amiable young actors that surround Wolff, the story becomes more about Q and his friends and less about Margo. That’s what really counts – the people who are there, rather than those who aren’t. After a moderately impressive screen debut in The Face Of An Angel, model Delevingne shows potential as an actor. Though, it’s still too early to say whether she’ll have any longevity. Director Jake Schreier follows up his charming debut Robot & Frank with a respectable, if not quite solid, second feature that will be sure to please fans of Green and teen films with a bit more bite. ***

  • emerb

    “Paper Towns” is an adaptation of
    a teen-favourite novel by “The Fault In Our Stars” author
    John Green. Directed by Jake Schreier, it is a high-school romance / coming
    of age dramedy which follows a small group of Florida teens and in particular
    one boy who has had a life-long obsession for a beautiful neighbour. When
    he spends an unforgettable night with this girl of his dreams, and she
    suddenly leaves the next day, he decides to pursue her. This bittersweet
    road-trip tale of self-discovery is charming, mysterious and intelligent
    and I enjoyed every minute.

    18 year old high-school senior
    Quentin (Nat Wolff) has been infatuated
    by Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) pretty much from
    the moment her family moved in across the road a decade earlier. Best friends
    and partners in crime as children, she used to climb in through his bedroom
    window and they explored their Orlando suburb on their bikes, until the
    day they found the body of a man who’d committed suicide. Late that night,
    Margo wanted to go to Sea World to investigate his life and learn why he’d
    killed himself, but the more reserved Quentin declined to join her.
    Since then, they gravitated toward
    different cliques in school and so parted ways. While Margo grew into a
    hot popular girl, Quentin grew up shy, semi-nerdy and hung out with fellow
    dorks, the goofy and perpetually horny Ben (Austin Abrams) and the smart self-conscious
    Radar (Justice Smith). The neighbours barely speak anymore so it’s a real
    blast from the past when she appears one night and dares him to take her
    out in his parents car and drive her around town on a late-night mission
    of vengeance against her boyfriend and best friend, who have been cheating
    on her behind her back. For the normally cautious Quentin, their childish
    escapades and creative revenge pranks over that long and crazy night are
    thrilling and leave him feeling ‘alive’ in a way he never was before.
    Margo tells him that he should always feel his heart pounding the way it
    is when they’re together and this results in him falling more in love
    with her than ever. However, the next day, the ever-mysterious
    Margo disappears completely, but not for the first time according to her
    indifferent mother (Susan Macke Miller). Quentin is determined to find
    her and becomes fixated on the idea that she has left a trail of hidden
    clues about her whereabouts, which he begins to piece together. It’s worth
    noting that the title of the film “Paper Towns” refers to fake cities
    used by mapmakers to catch out others who might try to steal their work.
    Despite flimsy evidence, he manages to persuade his pals to tag along for
    this unplanned road trip to New York, where he is certain Margo’s hiding
    in a true ‘paper town’. Provided they will be back for prom night, they
    accompany him in a minivan for the trek. The gang of buddies comprises:
    Ben, Radar, Radar’s girlfriend, Angela (Jaz Sinclair) and Margo’s popular
    pal Lacey (Halston Sage). As they make their way up the East Coast, life-lessons
    will be learned, attachments will be formed and the mysteries of Margo
    will be at least partially unraveled.

    The cast of likeable young actors
    all get the opportunity to shine and reveal more than one dimension to
    their characters. Wolff, Abrams and Smith have a funny and unforced rapport
    which works well. Wolff, in particular holds his own as the awkward, hesitant
    but sweet-natured and often impulsive young man who gradually becomes aware
    that he has a lot of growing up to still do and an uncertain adult world
    lies ahead of him. He manages to keep his character sensitive, grounded
    and sympathetic. Fashion model Delevingne has relatively little screen
    time but makes an undeniably captivating impression with her striking looks,
    sultry smoky voice and piercing gaze. While her performance is rather one-dimensional,
    her charismatic presences and bewitching beauty explains Quentin’s helpless
    devotion and it is likely that we haven’t seen the end of her on our screens.

    “Paper Towns” is an engaging
    mystery story with a big heart and I thought it gave an interesting perspective
    on adolescence. It follows flawed, nerdy, ordinary young teens who are
    vulnerable to social pressures and anxieties of contemporary teenage life.
    Schreier does a fine job capturing moments in an adolescent’s life where
    the world feels emotionally overpowering. However, we also get the usual
    teen antics: house parties, raunchy conversations, large quantities of
    alcohol and minimum parental supervision all leading to a moving prom-night
    climax. By the end, all the mysteries, dilemmas and questions have almost
    all been resolved. This movie certainly doesn’t subvert every cliché of
    the high school genre and while it may all seem a bit familiar, the affable
    young cast, quick witty dialogue, the effective wistful indie-rock soundtrack
    and an intriguing story make it stand out above its peers. Sharp, edgy
    and realistic, “Paper Towns” is not just another weepy romance or gross
    out comedy and I found it quite refreshing. It seems unlikely that it will
    match its predecessor’s commercial success but nonetheless it will appeal
    to a certain John Green demographic: date night couples, fans of the book
    and teen crowds. I’d gladly recommend this film as one worth watching,
    I reckon you will enjoy hanging out with these kids for a night.