John Green is a huge presence in the young adult fiction world, and now the highly anticipated adaptation of one of his best-sellers, Paper Towns, has finally hit our screens. Directed by Jake Schreier (Robot and Frank), this whimsical teen romance stars Nat Wolff as Quentin, a senior in his final weeks of high school, who has always played things safe. College-bound and wanting to set up a good life for himself, Quentin has kept his head down at school and avoided trouble, unlike his neighbour Margo (Cara Delevingne) who always seems to end up in it. Wild, mysterious and prone to running away and disappearing for weeks on end, Margo is different from the other girls at school – which obviously means that Quentin is desperately in love with her.
After the pair spend one crazy night together wreaking revenge on Margo’s ex-boyfriend and his buddies, Margo pulls another vanishing act and disappears. Determined to be the one to find her, Quentin enlists the help of his two best friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) to follow the clues Margo has left behind, which leads them on to one epic road trip they’ll never forget.
It’s a story that sounds a little too much like a wistful adolescent’s mid-class daydream, but Schrier actually manages to pull Paper Towns off in a way that’s far more believable than many of the high school romances that come our way. The screenplay did get a little cheesy at times (yes, this includes an overly inspirational voice over), and the character of Margo is difficult to get on board with. But the saving grace of this film is the cast, who – get this – actually look like teenagers, and not adults in their late twenties dressed in Letterman jackets. Austin Abrams, Justice Smith and Halston Sage (who plays Margo’s best friend Lacey) all give commendable and refreshingly youthful performances that make you wonder why so many other films and shows choose to cast older actors to play high school students.
Model Cara Delevingne proves she has the chops to be successful as she moves into the movie biz (despite a few accent slip ups here and there), but it’s Nat Wolff who you’re really taken with in Paper Towns, and who actually reminds me of some of the boys I went to high school with. The film does have that ability – to transport you back to a time when young love made you do the craziest of things, and while the lens might be a little rose-tinted, the spirit of adolescence is still very much there.
While I think tweens and teens will get the most out of Paper Towns, there is still something enjoyably reminiscent about it that adults can get on board with. It strikes a lovely balance between the real and the realistic-fantasy, which amounts to the perfect amount of escapism you’d want from a film of it’s genre. For young people, I’d say it’s definitely worth a look.
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