Saturday, 18 July 2015

Film Review: Paper Towns



Jake Schreier’s coming-of-age dramedy Paper Towns strives to subvert the cliché-ridden YA genre, but some elements can’t quite dismiss that feeling of déjà vu. 


Quentin (Nat Wolff) is a straight-A senior with an unrequited crush for the ‘girl-next-door’, Margo (Cara Delevingne). A rebellious tearaway for whom authority is merely another obstacle to hurdle on the route to raising hell, Margo has largely ignored Quentin since the two drifted apart in middle school. However, after reigniting their friendship with some classic carpe diem pranks, Margo disappears from school, leaving behind only a trail of clues for Quentin, and his friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), to follow.

Much like 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars (another John Green adaptation), Paper Towns is a film that works really hard to evade the common pratfalls of its genre. In some ways, it does a really great job, but in others it categorically fails. 80% of the first half is comprised of a familiar blend of washy teen drama and dumb high school politics, like an extended episode of The OC

Granted, Delevingne brings some snarky sass to the table, but I found that her motivations of 'my friend cheated on my BF' to be thin and uninteresting. Characters are introduced and then dropped, like Margo's ex-boyfriend Jase (Griffin Freeman). I found that the film didn’t really hit its stride until the group set off on their road trip to find Margo, and the cast literally left the high school drama in their rearview. 

A real winner was the soundtrack - it's almost a given that any teen dramedy will have some great indie tunes to back it up, but Paper Towns has an especially great selection, from The War on Drugs ('Burning') to Haim ('Falling') and Vance Joy ('Great Summer'). 

Wolff has his moments, but was comprehensively outshined by Delevingne in the first half, and his co-stars Abrams, Smith and Halston Sage (who plays Lacey) in the second. The cast worked best as an ensemble; when their infectious chemistry and cheeky humour was allowed to shine through, they gelled really well. However, some of the jokes are little infantile, so tonally the film traverses wildly different extremes, from silly toilet humour (i.e. Ben) to more mature young adult introspectiveness (i.e. Margo). 

So it's neither a raucous comedy like the Jump Street movies, or a completely thoughtful coming-of-age film like The Perks of Being A Wallflower, or The Spectacular Now. It falls somewhere in the middle, and can't decide which it wants to commit to. The bittersweet ending was a nice touch, but the script was nowhere near as new and original as the film seems to think it is. The message the film carries is a good one though - live in the moment, don't forget to have fun and, most importantly of all, don't get let someone string you along.

The Verdict: 6/10


Green’s Gen-Z demographic will lap it up, but those looking for something with a little more substance might feel a little underwhelmed.

Paper Towns is in cinemas across Australia now. This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

6 comments:

  1. I loved the book this was based on, but I'm still iffy on whether I should go see this in the theaters or wait for the DVD. The soundtrack seems something to look forward to. Good review.

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    1. Thanks! I'd never read the book, so the comparisons aren't there for me. It might be worth a shot if you're a fan of the book though? :)

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  2. I thought this sounded somewhat interesting, but I can't really get behind the cast. Plus, I read the books ending online and I wasn't crazy about that either. Great review!

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    1. The cast was a bit hit and miss for me; Delevingne was great, but Wolff was a really odd choice for the lead. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. So over the teen flicks these days. We need another John Hughes.

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    1. They can be a bit of mixed bag can't they? Thanks for commenting! :)

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