Paper Towns (12A) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Jake Schreier, US, 2015, 109 mins

Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevigne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair

Ever since she moved in next door, Quentin (Nat Wolff) has had a crush on Margo (Cara Delevigne). As young kids they were inseparable, but as teenage awkwardness bit they drifted apart. He worked hard and became a bit of a nerd with his best buds Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), while she was the cool rebel, reading poetry and having adventures.

Quentin never shook that crush though, so with just days before the end of High School he can’t believe his luck when she appears at his bedroom window and wants him to join her for an “adventure”: getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and her so-called friends who knew all about it.

Despite himself Quentin goes along with the late night hi-jinks, and then assures eye-rolling Ben and Radar that now, finally, things have changed – and he can’t wait to see her tomorrow.

But then she disappears. Her parents shrug it off – she’s run away before – but Quentin when Quentin finds what he thinks is a clue from her to him about where she’s gone, he decides he’s going to find her – with his best buds in tow of course, as well as Radar’s girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) and Lacey (Halston Sage), Margo’s best friend who really didn’t know about the betraying boyfriend stuff.

After finding more clues they end up in a mini-van on a long, long drive to upstate New York to find a “paper town” – a fake town mapmakers put in their work to expose illegal copyright – to see if Margo is there (and to make it back in time for the all-important Prom, naturally).

As you might imagine, we’re firmly in teenage/YA territory here, and if the poster seems somehow reminiscent of last year’s The Fault in Our Stars, that’s because this is also based on a book by the same writer, John Green. More than that, Wolff played the amusing blind friend Issac in The Fault… (and keep an eye out for an uncredited cameo by Ansel Elgort here: he was the heartthrob lead in that film too).

As such we’re getting lots of soft-shuffle dance music here, very little swearing or nastiness, almost no danger, an astonishing lack of cell phones (these teens were on a 26 hour road trip and did nothing but talk/look at the scenery? Right.) and other logic problems such as how on earth they all managed to reassure their parents – who never called them once to check up – that this folly/road trip was nothing to worry about.

But logic is not what this story is about. It’s about teenagers, their friends, their loves, and learning how people can be more than they seem, and about the decisions you have to make when you’re growing up.

It has its requisite heartwarming and amusing moments (the three lads seem like real mates and have a great rapport), and though it’s rather overlong and the road trip starts late (with Lacey and especially Angela’s presence seeming rather forced), if you’ve just left school and are about to start college/university, it’s bound to touch a chord – and even if that was a long time ago it will probably trigger a memory or two as well.

Review by James Bartlett

[SRA value=”3.5″ type=”BIG”]