Cert: 12A / 116 mins / Dir. Jake Schreier / Trailer
Is this teenagers, nowadays? Obviously that question says more about me as a middle-aged man than it does the target demographic (and cast) of the latest John Green screen-conversion, but really: is this what the kids want? A largely directionless road-trip movie with the blandest soundtrack imaginable?
Jake Schreier 's angst-less teen dramedy follows the bookish Quentin (Nat Wolff) as he embarks on an evening's mayhem with his childhood crush, Margo*1, following which she disappears, leaving a trail of clues as to her whereabouts. With graduation and the prom on the horizon, Quentin and his friends learn lessons about trust, friendship, taking risks and not taking the good times for granted. Also features an uncredited walk-on by Ansel Elgort exhibiting all the subtlety of a Stan Lee cameo.
Most importantly (to me, anyway), the film's not bad. It's certainly a long way from great, but I can see where its heart is and have a pretty strong feeling that the award-winning source-novel has more time and articulation to build the characters fully. Because even at just under two hours, the film makes a pretty shoddy job of painting more than one dimension for any of its players. And for a film whose first act makes a big show of planting incredibly specific 'clues' in the trail for Margo, it's woefully vague about the practical points of the road-trip*2.
But in fairness, it's not meant to be a movie about specifics; quite the opposite, in fact. Paper Towns is about the lack of answers which life provides, even when you search for them, and in that regard it fulfils its own mandate a little too well. On paper, the story is a touching, bittersweet drama about awkwardness, self-realisation and friendship. On screen, it's like a flick made by someone who's heard of John Hughes movies, but has never seen one.
The Breakfast Club, American Pie, Superbad. Each decade has a definitive coming-of-age fable. The slot for the teens is still open. To reiterate: It's not bad, but the upcoming generation deserves better.
Leaving all that aside, Paper Towns features an elevator-music rendition of The Lady In Red without a shred of humour, irony or self-awareness; that's all you really need to know.
Only if you're sixteen and really impressionable.
For the film's target audience it'll be a buy-er, but probably once it's on the shelf for about a fiver.
Although I don't think the kids buy the discs any more, do they?
While she's not dreadful, if this is the best work of Cara Delevingne then that IMDB list isn't going to get much longer…
Not at all.
Cara Delevingne starred in Anna Karenina, as did Keira 'Sabé' Knightley.
*1 Really, that's where we are now. A writer can name their protagonist Margo because they know their target audience will never have seen The Good Life so will be able to take the concept seriously.
*2 Things like "who's paying for the gas on their 2,400-mile road-trip, since they're all high-school students with no visible means of income and the car belongs to the protagonist's mum?", or "when the car spins off the road and the gang have to wait for the breakdown truck to arrive, what exactly is wrong with it, since the guy arrives and apparently fixes it without having to move the car himself?", or "if their road-trip is so meticulously planned that the stops are timed at 6 minutes, how come waiting hours for the breakdown truck doesn't throw everything to cock?", or "if the return journey was begun on the proviso that the gang would be able to drive 1,200 miles and just get back in time for the prom, how come Quentin has time to mope around, go for a milkshake, get the fucking bus back and apparently only miss the first two songs the DJ's played?". Or even just "how come an abandoned store in a neighbourhood so rough it's highlighted by the script hasn't been looted or is full of squatters?".
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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