Following last year's The Fault In Our Stars comes Paper Towns, the second (and probably not the last) adaptation of a John Green novel.
Paper Towns isn't as sad or traumatic as the first film but once again screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have faithfully adapted Green's novel, often taking quotes directly from the book. Throw in excellent casting and now a new generation of young readers can "just see the movie" to get the Green experience.
Green bucks the trend with his successful young adult novels, writing about teenagers living in the real world as opposed to the realms of fantasy or science fiction. While some of his books deal with hefty themes of death and grief, Paper Towns is more a gentle, nostalgic coming-of-age story about a group of kids in Orlando, Florida trying to negotiate the last few weeks of high school.
A solid and likeable Nat Wolff (who also stared in The Fault In Our Stars) plays Quentin, a normal, goofy, good kid who lives across the road from the school's cool girl, Margo Roth Spiegelman. After being childhood friends they've drifted apart, but Margo knocks on Quentin's window and convinces him to help her with a mission of revenge against her boyfriend who has been carrying on with her best friend. The next day Margo mysteriously disappears, and the smitten Quentin becomes obsessed with finding her, convinced she has left him clues to follow.
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Other than being known as "from the writer of The Fault In Our Stars", Paper Towns also heralds a breakthrough performance from fashion model Cara Delevingne, in her first leading role. With just the right amount of worldliness and mystery, Delevingne is perfect as the charismatic Margo. There's definitely more to this model-turned-actress than her eyebrows.
Overall, Paper Towns is a good and solid, if somewhat lengthy, film. The film is structurally and visually conventional with the odd glimmer of indie quirk in the soundtrack and a low-key exploration of the social and sexual pressures of teenage life. Where Paper Towns really shines, though, is in its performances, including Justice Smith and Austin Abrams as Quentin's two best friends Radar and Ben, and in portraying young adults as more than the clique that defines them.
I found myself waiting for something more substantial to happen, as if the road trip was all leading somewhere more spectacular than it does. However, that's exactly the point Green, and now Schreier are trying to make; there are spectacular things happening around us all the time, you just have to notice.
Cast: Cara Delevingne, Nat Wolff
Director: Jake Schreier
Running Time: 109 mins
Rating: M (Sexual references)
Verdict: A warm and effecting coming-of-age dramedy.