Paper Towns is the movie adaptation of John Green’s novel of the same name. And if you’re familiar with John Green’s novels, you’ll know that this is more a coming-of-age character piece than it is anything else, so you shouldn’t expect any action-packed sequences. Well, not really. And yes, there are quite a few teens in this movie. In this Paper Towns movie review, I’ll talk about the good and the meh of it.
Given that, it is a nice combination of mystery, drama, comedy, and just a wink of romance. But don’t compare it to The Fault in Our Stars just because that’s the only other movie based off a John Green novel. This is a wholly different story, with wholly different characters, and wholly different feels.
The story takes place in Orlando, Florida. Quentin “Q” Jacobsen has been pining for his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, for years, ever since they were about ten years old. Years later, they’re seniors in high school and they don’t even speak. However, one night, Margo goes to see him and they spend one fun-filled night together around the city. He thinks things are going to change. And they do. Just not like he’d expected.
The night in question is actually one of the highlights of the film, and this is where you really get to see how well the chemistry between Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne is. Cara’s Margo is the driving force, while Nat’s Q is the one being pulled in. Quentin’s attraction to Margo is almost pathetic and cute at the same time, and as the movie progresses, you see Q taking chances that he never would have before because of her. Margo becomes an obsession for Q, but also the catalyst for Q’s actions.
The second part of the film is another highlight as we get to see the interaction between Quentin and his friends develop. If you’re into people watching, that’s basically what this is like. You watch them talk and develop and grow and you see how they bond in certain ways. The whole movie is pretty much like that, especially when you see Quentin and his band friends Ben and Radar interact. It seemed an easy effort for Nat and co-stars Austin Abrams and Justice Smith to work together, as if they’d been doing it for years.
What’s great about these guys is that they actually seem to be acting like high school kids. They don’t walk around with an air of pretentiousness or act older than they are. They just are high school kids with the biggest concern being Prom.
I liked the film better than the book partly for that reason. Green, although a gifted writer, tends to write his characters as seemingly very pretentious, but in this film, it’s cut down greatly when it comes to Quentin and even Margo.
But the story is Quentin’s story and it’s a very unique journey for him in his final days of high school. The movie plays it out easily, but at the same time, I know this movie is not for everyone. There’s humor, but most of it is not laugh out loud funny. There’s drama, but not to the point where you’re brought to tears. And there’s adventure, but not nail-biting, on-the-edge-of-your-seat type of adventure. It’s the culmination of all these things that make it a good movie on a young man’s journey to finding more of himself, or more for himself, out in the world. It’s very realistic in that sense, which might be a little too bland for people to watch.
Nat Wolff as the main character was a wonderful choice. He shows Quentin as the awkward, vulnerable teen that he is, and is able to develop the character’s confidence in the film. He gets his chance to shine and does so at times.
As I said before, his co-stars Abrams and Smith, are commendable as the funny and likeable best friends to Q. And Halston Sage and Jaz Sinclair add some additional romantic and friendly chemistry for the boys, without it being sexualized.
Lastly, Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman was pretty amazing. Although the actress is also a model, she lets all that go and just becomes Margo, and it works for her.
The story was sweet and well told, and the actors were good, if not great. However, I don’t believe this type of movie is for everyone, and those that did like The Fault in Our Stars might not like find this quite as enjoyable despite it being less mournful.