Paper Towns follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolf), a high school student whose soon graduating high school. With his life ahead of him, he’s left wondering if he missed out on an opportunity to be with his first crush, Margo (Cara Delevingne). Q is smart but doesn’t hang out with the cool kids Margo has surrounded herself with. However, this seeming changes after Margo comes to Q with the request to help her carry out revenge on her friends.
After a night of close calls and sweet moments, Q feels that he and Margo are closer. Despite this, Margo seemingly disappears from his life the next day.
Thinking that Margo would want him to follow Q, along with his friends Radar (Justice Smith) and Ben (Austin Abrams), start investigating the clues she left behind. With a location seemingly discovered the three, along with Radar’s girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) and Margo’s former best friend Lacy (Halston Sage), travel across America to find the paper town Margo’s hiding in.
This is the second film based upon a John Green novel and overall this one comes off as a better film. While the Fault in Our Star’s wanted to play more with your heart strings, Paper Towns seems more grounded cutting out the tragedy for a fun mystery/roadtrip/buddy comedy/romance story.
As you might of guessed from description above, this film moves around a lot. Opening with Margo and Q running from location to location taking revenge the rest of the film is treated more like a light mystery story. Despite this story motif, the film doesn’t really revolve around the mystery but more what Q learns in the end.
Throughout the film we see Q be so hung up on Margo that we don’t really realize that the two have drifted apart a great deal. While most stories would end with the two living happily ever after, Paper Towns goes more in the realistic direction as Q’s quest ends with him learning that he was in love with an idea, not a person.
It’s this lesson that makes the story so interesting. We all rarely get what we want in the end, and it’s because of this that Paper Towns keeps my interest. While Q has fun with his friends traveling across several state lines, he ends up being the only character to leave with nothing but personal growth and a lesson in how sometimes life friggin’ sucks (if your sensing some kind of connection with myself and the story, your correct).
That being said, the journey towards this personal destination is where Paper Towns fails. While I’ve not read the book (something I’m pretty damn sure an actor in this film would have done) it’s clear to me that there was a lot of cutting near the middle of the story. Most notably during the traveling sections.
With little other then insert shots of the characters driving in a van and a map graphic of the U.S., the road trip takes up seemingly about 30 minutes of the film. While I didn’t really want to spend a lot of time with five teens in a car, it would have been nice for their to be more story during this part of the trip.
Additionally, the opening of the film kinda feels sluggish like it’s waiting to get to the better parts of the film. We get to see our three friends interact, and while this is the funniest part of the film, it all felt somewhat hollow and stunted under the films own self perceived grandeur. The words are funny and fast between the characters, but in the end there meaning isn’t anything new.
Paper Towns seemingly wants to be the cool coming of age comedy film, like Breakfast Club or any other John Hughes film, but it ends up not being creative enough to do so. Ultimately the films message of “we don’t always get what we want” ironically says more about the overall film’s quality then it’s characters growth.
With that said, Paper Towns is still an ok film. It’s not rude, it’s not flashy, it’s just a story with a refreshing message. If that seems like an interesting film to you, then by all means, visit John Green’s Paper Town.
Paper Towns was produced by Temple Hill Entertainment and TSG Entertainment. The film is distributed by 20th Century Fox.