I find it hard to be the judge of a Young Adult movie about high school because I did not go to normal high schools. The first two were on military bases, the second of which was so awful I would prefer not to remember I was there, and the last was an all boys military school where I enrolled willingly. Therefore, I cannot imagine what it must be like for normal kids to go to a normal school. With this in mind, I pondered how I would react to Paper Towns (PT). Was I able to judge the movie on its terms or did I find myself laughing at the characters’ fake problems?
I would not be a critic if I did not allow movies to stand on their own merits. Opinion is criticism, but too much of it can negatively affect the judgment and recommendation of the media in question. And so, I took my pragmatic nihilistic self out of the equation and found a quality film in PT.
In the midst of his senior year, Q, played by Nat Wolff, becomes the reluctant participant in a breakup revenge plot by his neighbor Margo, played by Cara Delevingne. After fulfilling her plans he finds himself infatuated, but before making a move she disappears. Q then follows a series of clues Margo left behind to divine her location with the help of his friends.
PT is a finding yourself drama in the context of a high school student. Q is the aimless male protagonist set in his ways and Margo is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that makes him think twice about who he is. Usually I hate this genre with a passion, but unlike Aloha, PT has a point, you know what is happening, and the characters are likeable. Despite the fact I cannot care about problems that do not exist, especially in real life, I kind of cared about what the characters were going through and wanted to see them succeed.
I believe a part of my feeling is from how well acted the movie is, in addition to the writing from author John Green (Fault in Our Stars). Wolff was believable as the dopy overachiever, but Delevingne showed great promise in a debut role. Though she needs to work on the American accent, I believe we can expect a lot of good in Suicide Squad and beyond. Austin Abrams as Q’s friend Radar had great comedic timing in scenes I assume were improvised. The weakest performance was Halston Sage as Lacey, but I think it is more the fault of the script that made her the “misunderstood blonde.”
Issues arise in the pacing as the film takes its time getting to anything relevant. It was nearly two hours and it could have ended in 90 minutes had Q been proactive in his pursuit of Margo. I know you cannot do much while in high school, but if he cared about finding her, Q would not have waited days before making the effort instead of talking about it in voiceover. Furthermore, whoever in wardrobe put Abrams in a UF Gator shirt, how dare you make me see that crap super-imposed on a theater screen. You should be ashamed of yourself.
And that was Paper Towns, a simple movie in the ever-expanding genre of Young Adult. If you liked Fault in Our Star, it is very similar in tone, but with a road trip-mystery angle about people finding themselves. It has more than enough humor to balance out the drama and I recommend it. Then again, Ant-Man is still out and still awesome, but both are better than Pixels.