|Story & Screenplay|
|Sound & Music|
“Paper Towns” offers a lukewarm teen dramedy that romanticizes a type of a geeky schoolboy’s lost-and-found teenage daydream tale. Packaged to appeal primarily to pre-teens, it maintains a consistently wholesome voice that greatly downplays the darker side of growing up. Although the paper-thin presentation doesn’t turn out as deeply moving as it intends to be, it occasionally manages to remain grounded with charming supporting details that can still warrant a slight recommendation.
Adapted from the bestselling young adult novel by author John Green, also the man behind the book “The Fault in Our Stars,” this coming-of-age tale looks at young, unrequited love, friendship, independence, adventure, breaking rules, seizing the day, and letting go through the eyes of a regular teenager who is in love with the mystery girl next door. The funny, frisky teen narrative centers on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo. After taking Quentin in a series of risk-taking tasks around their Orlando hometown for the whole night, Margo suddenly ends up gone the next day, only leaving behind some cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. This leads Quentin and his closest friends in an exhilarating adventure to track down the missing Margo, the popular girl who loves mysteries too much that she eventually ends up being one herself.
This formulaic teen romance and melodrama directed by Jake Schreier may not be the most poignant nor groundbreaking in the way it handles its light and noble intentions, but it makes the clear choice of presenting the messiness of ordinary life to make its target audience identify more with the story. It focuses on the more literal than the more existential views about growing up, and along the way, make the simple pleasures of understanding true friendship as profound as finding genuine love in unexpected ways.
As this motion picture gets manicured to primarily appeal to the book’s teen fans, it makes the storytelling slightly too romanticized that the progression of the tale comes across as a little too polished and scripted. Despite a few resonant moments, the material gets weighed down by the meandering exercise in artifice and gloss in favor of the often too clean lines of fantasy and romance, rendering more contrivances in its make-believe world as the story moves on. With such issues, the gauzy plot’s series of behavioral puzzles find it difficult to provide authentic beats of awakening to really strike serious emotional chords, especially come resolution time. These make the picture a glazed down and a serenely bland adaptation piece that practically works better on paper than on screen.
It is worth noting that the characters didn’t opt for the unreasonably glamorous looks that many actors tend to prioritize in their on-screen performances for such a gloss-filled movie. Generally, each cast member possesses that everyday appearance that adds a more identifiable charm to the proceedings. However, this doesn’t make the actors free from the paper-thin characterizations from the script. Amidst the charming young cast’s attempt to help compensate on the shortcomings of the storytelling through a good number of likeable performances, their cardboard characters are still often too mundane to merit significant personal and social impact.
Nat Wolff as Quentin Jacobsen keeps up with the stereotype geek-and-goody high schooler character frequently featured in this type of coming-of-age spin. Overall, he delivers the needs of the story as a passionate young adult in search for his childhood sweetheart. His co-star Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman lives up to the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” archetype, but her monotone take on her role ultimately falls short in putting layers of depth to her character’s more mysterious demeanor. Interestingly, the supporting characters end up more charming than the two young leads in most scenes. The more compelling friendship between the three high school boys Quentin, Radar, the role played by Justice Smith, and Ben, the role played by Austin Abrams, offers more chemistry as screen buddies compared to the main characters Quentin and Margo.