Movie Review – Paper Towns (2015)

Director: Jake Schreier

Stars: Nat Wolff, Carla Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage

Quentin (Wolff) used to be friends with Margo (Delevingne) who has a love of mysteries. She often disappears, and after one crazy night where she ropes in Quentin she vanishes again, but this time Quentin thinks that she left so he could find her. In an effort to live life to its fullest he takes a risk and goes after her, hoping that she’ll be waiting for him.

Live life to its fullest and appreciate the people around you, that’s the basic message of Paper Towns and it doesn’t amount to much more than that. I found it highly disappointing. The basic story is uninteresting and I was never interested in Quentin as a character, he just seemed to be a bit, well, pathetic. This isn’t a criticism of Delevingne but the film was at its best without her on the screen as I found it much more enjoyable when it was a buddy road trip movie, but whenever the focus was on Quentin and Margo’s ‘relationship’ the film ground to a halt.

It begins with Margo roping Quentin into a night of revenge, where she gets back at her boyfriend for cheating on her. Some of these pranks just seemed cruel and didn’t do anything to endear me to either character. It seemed that basically these were kids making their own problems out of nothing. Boo hoo, get over it. Much more interesting was Ben’s attempts to move on from a high school nickname, or Radar’s struggles to incorporate his girlfriend into his life when he was afraid that she might find things odd, or Lacey’s yearning to be seen as something more than just a beautiful girl. The pining of Quentin was shallow, and should not have been the focus of the film.

Paper Towns, at times, did seem to be deconstructing the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ trope, in which a female character is quirky and odd, and also exactly what the main character needs in order to save him from his loneliness (examples of this are Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown or Natalie Portman’s in Garden State). This film does go to lengths to show that Quentin is in love with his idea of Margo rather than the reality, but the climax does undercut this somewhat so I don’t think it goes as far as it could have in deconstructing the romantic quest.

The film does have some laughs however, including a good use of the Pokémon theme, but ultimately it was lacking.  I actually considered walking out part of the way through simply because I didn’t find it interesting. It was dull and the overarching message isn’t one that’s revolutionary or original. This is one to avoid, most definitely.

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