'Paper Towns' was Pretty Something


Ahhh, yes, young life, young problems, young love - we’ve all been there. The specifics may be different for this day and age from when we were young, but the broad strokes are pretty much the same – friendship blues, graduation anxieties, identity crises, the opposite gender and the like. In the same vein, coming of age movies come by all of the time and tackle generally the same things, but every so often, some movies present it ever so attractively that they stand out and become the current generation’s Breakfast Club. Was Paper Towns one of those movies? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. 

Paper Towns follows the story of Q/Quentin who’s your typical high school geek – straight-A student, has his life already planned out, goes through the motions of high school while keeping his head down and never getting into trouble. Then there’s Margo, Q’s childhood friend/crush, who, in one night, takes him on an adventure he never knew he wanted. When Margo inexplicably disappears the next day, Q, with his friends Ben and Radar, embark on a mystery-filled quest to find the story’s eccentric love interest.

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While this movie falls a step short from becoming a great coming of age piece, it did have a lot of merits. It had a captivating premise, loveable characters, the perfect cast, some effective teen humor, and themes the audience can either relate to or feel nostalgic about.

Novel-based movies often suffer from poor, inconsistent pacing. When filmmakers try to cram the massive content of a novel into a two hour movie, it almost always ends up feeling rushed. But that’s not the case in Paper Towns at all. The progression of the plot and its mystery was just right, even giving enough time for the more contemplative moments of the film. You’re never struggling to follow what’s going on, nor are you bored with irrelevant sections; you’re just completely into the mystery and their spirited road trip adventure.

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What made this movie even more enjoyable were the quirky characters and the perfect cast. Nat Wolff's Q has an inherent sincerity about him that’s perfect for his character’s high school naiveté. And frankly, that helped me buy the whole idea of him driving cross country for a girl. Even in subtlety, his performances still emanated some strong emotion. Even more impressive is the rapport he has with co-stars Austin Abrams and Justice Smith, who played Ben and Radar respectively. This little group of theirs reminded me of my own high school gang. Their bond and the way they played off each other was a blast to watch! (Especially when they started singing the Pokemon theme song) Cara Delevigne’s strong features worked best for her mysterious, anti-dainty, cool girl Margo. And it’s also remarkable how much more we find out about her character even in her absence.

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The cast's near perfect chemistry is a hoot to watch!

The movie was essentially about a boy and his friends, going on a sort of treasure hunt. And what do you get when you have three teenage boys running around the city? - a lot of hijinks, hormonal banter, and boyish jesting. Coupled with the actors’ effortless friendship, the script and the gags all felt natural and, even more so, hilarious.

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Cliche but adorable. 2 out of 3 of the film's dynamic trio.

But hidden beneath the adolescent humor are themes and truths every one of us has gone through – first loves, heartbreaks, lasting friendships, living in the moment. Deep down, Paper Towns ‘teaches’ its audience the value of spontaneity and living life to the fullest, of cherishing friendships that would likely last a lifetime, and pursuing what you love or who you love. My only (minor) squabble with the film was that it was too on-the-nose at times; this being heavily apparent during Margo’s age-defying monologues. But its simplicity and accessibility may just be perfect for the post-pubescent youth of this generation.

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But as I’ve said, everyone can relate to some, if not all, of the movie’s undertones. I personally connected to how Q, Ben and Radar all seemed to have their women figured out in their heads. We all have a tendency to conclude things about/idealize the people we want, and be disappointed when they don’t fit those expectations. The movie was (among other things) a gentle reminder that real connection starts when you’ve let go of all judgement and accept that a person will be more awesome than how you construct them to be. All three boys eventually have that defining scene when they figure out that the girls they pine for have more texture than they thought and it was in those moments that the movie showed its heart the most.

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Don't judge a girl by...well, just don't.

The conclusion gave me a bit of a nice surprise. (SEMI-SPOILERY TERRITORY: Skip to the next paragraph! Quick!) Actually, this whole movie was not was I was expecting. Just like Q, it wasn’t until the end that I was disillusioned and realized that the movie was about something else entirely. It was lukewarm in its romance, but its true value lied in the rest of Q’s relationships. It may not have been the ending Q wanted, but it provided a satisfying, and honest, closure to this adventure.

Sweet, fun, and earnest. That was Paper Towns.

Paper Towns isn’t the next Ferris Bueller. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t that emotional or profound, it didn’t go big, but it was still pretty something. It was sweet, fun, and most importantly, earnest. It was well-acted, light-hearted, covered in comedic dialogue, reflective and had enough streaks of genius to warrant appreciation. It was a pleasant coming of age film that never dwells on too much on the teenage angst but rather its juvenile, loving, spirit. 


1 comment:

  1. very substantial like I want to go to a movie house now!