Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paper Towns Review

Last year at around this time, I went into what I thought was going to be a cheesy romance film with the added gimmick of a girl dying of cancer to make it seem more interesting. I almost even skipped it. But I saw it anyways for whatever reason and holy fetch. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was one of those awesome movie going experiences where you have very low expectations going in, but end up getting blown away by how good it is. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am of course talking about The Fault in Our Stars, which was based off of the John Green novel. This time around I was ready. Without even knowing the premise, when they announced they were adapting another John Green novel to film, that of Paper Towns, I became excited. I was ready for another great movie going experience that would give me some sort of feel good message about life. For much of this movie, I was very pleased with my experience and I was ready to report that once again a John Green novel has hit a home run. But then the end of the movie happened. And then I thought about other aspects of the film that were slightly hokey. So as it turns out, this is a much more mixed bag for me, but overall a recommendable film.

If you've never heard of Paper Towns and "based off of a John Green novel" is not enough to attract you to the theaters, let me quickly describe the fun and genius nature of this plot before I pick apart its imperfections. Our movie is about this high school kid named Quentin. He's a pretty by-the-books sort of kid who's always doing what he's supposed to and never getting trouble. He gets straight A's in his classes and he has plans on going to a prestigious college followed by Medical School and all that jazz. You get the picture. Our other main character is a girl named Margo. She's almost the exact opposite. She's probably not a bad student, per se, but she's a lot less interested in school and more interested in all these crazy adventures that could potentially get her in a whole lot of trouble. Quentin, of course, is madly in love with Margo and has been since she moved across the street from him when they were younger. They used to even hang out all the time until they grew apart. One day towards the end of his senior year in high school, she shows up at his window and forces him to go on all these crazy adventures with her and he has the night of his life. Then Margo disappears the next day and Quentin and his two best friends go on a treasure hunt to try and find her.

Sound like a sappy teenage romance movie? It's not. I'd refer to it as more of a teenage adventure movie. I say that our two main characters are Margo and Quentin, but in reality it's a lot more focused on Quentin and his two friends Ben and Radar. The three of them are all very unique, but together they make for quite the entertaining trio. The movie was a lot of fun, especially when we got to our treasure hunt/mystery part of the movie. In addition to being an adventure movie, this is definitely a comedy and these kids did a great job of making me laugh. I also appreciated the fact that they actually looked like high school seniors. A lot of movies these days that are set in a high school have actors who are aged anywhere from 25 to 30 playing these high school students. The DUFF was a great example of this. I actually enjoyed the movie, but no Robbie Amell does not pull off 18 very well. He's a year older than I am as he was born in 1988. After getting home from the movie, I looked up the ages of these Paper Towns actors and they are in fact as young as they look. For the most part they are 19 or 20 years old. I think Cara Delevigne was the oldest at 22.

Another thing that I enjoyed about this movie was that our characters had a decent amount of depth to them. There's this one girl in particular that plays the hot girl and she gets upset that people can only see her as the hot girl and not the smart, intelligent girl that she really is. It wasn't cheesy. It was emotional and well-played. Also impressive was the acting in the movie. All of these young adults did a very good job. Some of these people are fairly new actors. If I threw out the names Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, and Halston Sage, you'd probably have no idea who I'm talking about because they haven't really been in anything. But they gave the type of performance in this where I'd think that they all have a bright future ahead of them. On the other hand, if I say the names Nat Wolff and Cara Delevigne, there's a much higher chance of you recognizing them. Wolff was also in The Fault in Our Stars and has been in other movies such as Stuck in Love and Palo Alto. Delevigne has done a lot of modelling work and was also in Anna Karenina. She also has big roles in the upcoming movies Pan and Suicide Squad, so if you don't know her now, you will soon. Both of them were great in this.

As you can see, there are plenty of great aspects of this movie. Where it kinda derailed for me was the final part of the movie. I'm not going to share why on this post as that would be a spoiler, but I will say that it reminded me a bit of Tomorrowland from earlier this Summer. It was fun going on the journey to Tomorrowland, but once we got there it was fairly lame and boring. Same principles here. There are aspects of the ending that I did actually appreciate, but at the same time I was not happy with how things turned out. Then I got to thinking that if they had done things differently, I would've also had issues, so it was kind of a lose/lose situation based on how they set it up. When I thought about what the root of this issue was, my conclusions were that these characters felt pretty fake and unrealistic. Better words might be that they are idealistic or romanticized teenagers. The parents and adults in this movie, or the lack thereof, are a huge part of the problem. These kids can do whatever they want without suffering any consequences whatsoever. Cara Delevigne's character of Margo was especially bad. I actually really loved Cara's performance. She's a beautiful and talented actress. But the more I think about her character, the more I realize how hokey of an idea she is. Thus sadly the more I thought about this movie, the more it just fell apart for me.

Then I got to thinking about The Fault in Our Stars and I realized that even though I still like that movie, it does suffer from similar problems. I mean, we have this girl who is dying from cancer and almost out of the blue we have this perfect guy who falls in love with her and perfect things start to happen for them? Yeah... no. Yes, it does have other themes that I really enjoyed that make it a better movie than Paper Towns overall, but perhaps the issue lies with John Green. Perhaps his writing just includes a lot of idealistic teenagers or characters that help teach some good principles. I guess it works to some degree. It also probably works very well for the teenage audience, so kudos there? However, there are plenty of movies that are similar to this that I feel do a much better job than Paper Towns at making their movie feel realistic, yet still give a very positive message. The DUFF is a good recent example that's more well known. Past movies like Easy A are fantastic. A recent, lesser known movie that might be the best in this genre is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. That's one of my favorite movies so far this year. Super realistic high school movie with a message that is a lot more powerful.

No Paper Towns is not a bad movie. I had fun with it. It's led by a great trio of friends who are an absolute blast to watch. They are all very different from each other, yet as friends that have super good chemistry. The movie is especially fun when Margo disappears and sends them on a treasure hunt to find her. The movie will certainly instill in you a sense of adventure. It made me want to go out and do something. But after everything wrapped up, it felt like there was a lot things that were missing in the movie. A lot of the writing didn't make sense when I thought about and a lot of the characters I felt did things and got away with things that normal teenagers wouldn't do or wouldn't get away with. As far as a recommendation, if you liked The Fault in Our Stars or you are a fan of John Green, go see this movie. If you are a teenager reading this review, go see this movie. If you're not sure about it, my recommendation would be to go find Me and Earl and the Dying Girl instead or even go rent The DUFF. They are similar movies to this that are far superior. My grade for Paper Towns is a 7/10.

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