Magazine article Screen International

'Paper Towns': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Paper Towns': Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Jake Schreier. US. 2015. 109mins

A romantic drama about a teenager consumed by the exquisite melancholy inherent in loving someone just out of reach, Paper Towns, not unlike its protagonist, has worthy ambitions that exceed its grasp. Based on a novel by John Green, the author behind The Fault In Our Stars, this likeable, emotionally precise film has a big heart and a genre-shifting construction that keeps the proceedings from feeling like just another young-adult meander. But despite an agreeably earnest performance from rising star Nat Wolff, Paper Towns covers familiar coming-of-age terrain and suffers from an opaque turn by newcomer Cara Delevingne that's not quite as captivating as the story requires.

Paper Towns opens July 24 in the States, and 20th Century Fox will push hard to remind audiences of the film's connection to Green. (After all, on a modest budget Fox's Fault brought in more than $307m worldwide last summer.) With no big stars on the marquee, the film benefits from opening at a time when there's no direct competition, making Paper Towns the go-to choice for date-night couple, teen and twentysomething crowds, and fans of the book. But because Paper Towns doesn't have the tear-jerking sentiment of Fault - not to mention that film's easily marketable hook - theatrical grosses may be a bit less gaudy.

As Paper Towns opens, we learn that 18-year-old Quentin (Wolff) has been infatuated with beautiful Margo (Delevingne) since she moved into the house across the street 11 years ago. Fast friends as kids, they have grown apart as they gravitated toward different cliques in high school: She runs with the popular crowd, while he's more of a nerd, hanging with equally dorky buddies Radar (Justice Smith) and Ben (Austin Abrams). But after a night where the two reconnect, Margo goes missing - leaving Quentin convinced that she's leftclues behind for him to figure out where she's run off.

Published a few years before The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns has been adapted by the same screenwriting team that tackled Fault, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who have shown with their work on The Spectacular Now (an adaptation) and (500) Days Of Summer (an original script) that they have a special talent for capturing the poignancy and anxiety of young love.

The specificity of feeling that permeates Paper Towns is one of its strongest attributes, and director Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank) does a fine job underlining the moments in a teenager's life when the world feels emotionally overpowering: driving in the car at night with your secret crush, being at prom with your pals before you all go offto different colleges in the fall. Incorporating wistful pop songs and sometimes slowing down the action to accentuate the preciousness of the situations, Schreier walks a delicate line between the melodramatic and the heartfelt.

Where Fault focused on the love affair between two people battling cancer, Paper Towns wields a more unusual structure. The first act consists mostly of the reunion between Quentin and Margo, as she surprises him out of the blue one night, imploring him to help her get revenge on some classmates who wronged her. But then the film shifts toward becoming a mystery: Quentin knows that she's run away before, always leaving hints behind concerning her whereabouts, but can he crack the code this time? From there, Paper Towns morphs again, evolving into a bittersweet road-trip comedy as Quentin, his pals and their girlfriends (or potential girlfriends) go out to find Margo. …

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