These teenage girls need to stop acting so “mysterious”. Especially when you ask them for their number.
Since he was very young, Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) has been living across the street from Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) – a childhood friend of sorts that he hasn’t kept in contact with much as they’ve gotten older. Not that he hasn’t wanted to, he just hasn’t tried to, as constantly mulling over the mystery of who she is and what she could be up to is better than any human interaction with her whatsoever. But one fateful night, Margo sneaks into Q’s room, takes him out on an adventure where they prank mean kids from their school, and basically, give Q the greatest night of his life. Sadness then ensues when, for some unexplained reason, Margo leaves without telling a single soul, leaving Q to wonder just what happened. Did she die? Or, did she just want to get away from the rest of the world that she knew because it became too much for her? Q thinks about it more and more, but he soon starts to see little clues that Margo may, or may not have left for him to see, which then leads him to set out on a road trip to find Margo, see what she’s been up to, and find out if they’re meant for one another like he believes they are.
So yeah, if anybody remembers last summer, I wasn’t so hot with the Fault In Our Stars. While some would say that it was just another case of some angry, soulless, and unlovable person taking all of his years of disappointment and frustration out on a sweet movie about two kids with cancer falling in love with one another, others would say it’s just another case of some person not enjoying a movie for the sole fact that it’s annoying. And in case you couldn’t tell, I sided more with the latter, but I had my reasons, people!
Other than the fact that, you know, I am soulless, angry and unlovable, by choice.
With that film, it felt like the characters spoke in such a stilted and overly quirky manner, that it was almost as if John Green knew he was working with a conventional love story and needed to spice it up so much that he just made each and every character sound as if they learned a new phrase to coin because it makes them appear “cool”, or “hip”. Now, I know that he didn’t write that movie adaptation, nor did he write this one, but he still laid the groundwork enough to where it’s obviously clear that he thinks this is the way actual, real life teenagers talk, or at least, should.
Let’s hope they never do, because honestly, the first hour or so of Paper Towns is downright treacherous. Granted, the whole movie is no easy cakewalk either, but at least by the end, director Jake Schreier decides to throw some interesting tidbits of insight in there for good measure, Problem is, there’s a whole other hour-and-a-half where these boring, almost carbon-copy versions of teenage characters walk around, talk somewhat “cool”, and go on aimlessly with their rather uneventful days. Not saying that this isn’t how real-life teenagers go about their days normally, but when you’re making a movie, and you have a crummy script to work with, you need a little more than just a conventional teenager-types lulling around the hallways, as they wait around for the next plot-point to come hit them on their noggins.
And honestly, once the eventual road trip does get going, there’s still not much for this movie to offer. Every character feels as if they’ve been hashed-out of a whole slew of other, way better movies that have come before them, so that when they do get to the parts of the movie where they have to break down, open-up each other’s souls to one another, and show their true colors, it’s hard to feel anything. We’ve seen the dorky characters in these types of movies try so desperately to get the girl, just like we’ve seen the dorky characters try to hide the fact that their dorks to begin with.
It never gets old!
Now, if there is something interesting that Paper Towns brings to the table for teenage romance dramedies that Fault didn’t really bother with, is that it takes a plot-conceit and finds a way to pick it apart in a way that’s thoughtful. With Margo, we get who is basically, another version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl; she acts on instinct, says odd things, capitalizes certain letters of a word, and leaves ridiculous tips of where it is that she may have ventured off to next. While this character already had me running for the exits as soon as she started going on about the whole “paper town metaphor”, thankfully, she’s not in it too much.
Which, in essence, is a bit of a shame because I feel, given more time to do so, Cara Delevingne could have stretched this character a bit more. While Delevingne herself basically has to play one-note, she does so in a charming way that makes me feel, had the script not been written as if it were ghost-written by wannabe hipsters who listen to the Dirty Projectors, that she could have gone to some interesting places with this character. But, for better and for worse, she’s cut out for most of the proceedings as she’s left in the background as everybody searches for her. The movie still finds a way to bring her back and discuss how her thoughtless actions actually have consequences, which is the only interesting food-for-thought I could find here, but eventually, it’s all just left in the dust.
Along the way of the road trip, of course, these characters learn more about one another than they may have ever done before, but before long, it’s practically all uninteresting. Though Nat Wolff surprised the hell out of me with how deep, dark and willing he was able to go with his performance in Palo Alto, it seems like he’s taken a step back and playing someone who is far more boring and predictable; as if the movie would have gone on and been fine without him even bothering to show up for work. He tries as Q, but ultimately, he turns out be like everyone of a John Green-type: Awkward, but charming.
Something that, as someone who was a once a fellow teenager, doesn’t exist.
But dare to dream, kiddies!
Consensus: Like the Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns features overly cloying dialogue that’s not able to do much for the plot, or these characters, considering we’ve seen them done before and they haven’t much anything new to offer.
3.5 / 10