Saturday, 1 August 2015

Review: Paper Towns

World of Blackout Film Review

Paper Towns Poster

Paper Towns
Cert: 12A / 116 mins / Dir. Jake Schreier / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

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.

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Only if you're sixteen and really impressionable.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
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?

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
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…

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Not particularly.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not particularly.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not at all.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Cara Delevingne starred in Anna Karenina, as did Keira 'Sabé' Knightley.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*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?".
Y'know. Details.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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