Gosh, it's hard being middle class and white. So. Damn. Hard. At least this is what you’ll be led to believe with the latest in the coming-of-age-teen-romance films written by John Green - the very same man who brought us more tears from teen girls than One Direction in his other book’s film adaption ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. Unfortunately, ‘Paper Towns’ is not quite as emotional a journey, and if it got any of those tears on it, it would probably crumple in your hands.
The "mysterious" girl next door goes missing and it's up to her neighbour and his band of misfits to go on the road trip of their lives to track her down, following some extremely well-thought out clues along the way.
So life as a middle class teenager is boring, right? There has to be something more to all of this. The tedium is almost unbearable. Well, so much so for Margo Spiegleman (Cara Delevingne) that she becomes the mysterious rebel. We're told this is because she doesn’t know who she is. Yep, that’s her impetus to seemingly ruin her parents lives. We're also told that Quentin Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) is in love with her and always has been. Once again, that’s it. There is so much we are told in this film that you barely have to use your brain - which is not doing its target audience any justice. The quest for self is nothing new in the teen flick genre, but there is a way to do it and pay it justice, and then there is a way to force-feed your audience like the children they are so desperately seeking to no longer be.
SWITCH: 'PAPER TOWNS' TRAILER 2
Everything is all too convenient for these kids. One has a car, another inexplicably has a credit card, and what is most preposterous of all, Quentin’s mother after one phone call, is 100% okay for him to drive 26 hours across country to find this girl. It's all too unbelievable. My mother would have flipped her lid if I had done anything like that! Lucky for her I didn’t have my license and my friends were a lot less of the cliché rebels – I was definitely a “cool kid” (sarcasm).
The performances are adequate, but the actors are let down by the script. I can’t comment on the emotional integrity of the book, but the film definitely falls as flat as its source material's pages. It seems to me that the classic teenage films of the 80s are being further elevated on a pedestal by these almost failed modern attempts. I would prefer teenagers watch ‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Pretty in Pink,’ and ’16 Candles’ - films that infinitely capture the teenage condition in a better way.
It seems to me that the classic teenage films of the 80s are being further elevated on a pedestal by these almost failed modern attempts.
In terms of pacing, there was essentially none to speak of. The film was put into cruise control and left to get to its destination. The whole thing looked like it was put through an Instagram filter, and the soundtrack was impossibly indie. No one would dance to Haim at their "Prom"; what ever happened the Spice Girls and Grease Megamixes?
But this is what the film does so well. It makes it feel like the viewer could have been any or all of the characters in it. That was probably the goal. You are the rebel, you are the rule abider, and you are the hot girl and the nerd. You are just like everyone else. If I sound jaded, I challenge you to watch this and not feel the same, but maybe I’m too old? With lines such as, “Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself,” it's hard to know whether you are watching a movie with teenagers as the main characters or a very long travel commercial from the mid 80s. Another little thing that irked me about the film (but might have been my mood) was the enforced racial partnering that ended up being made. No diversity here; everyone stick to loving your own colour. In a film about finding yourself, I just don’t think it’s a particularly positive message to portray.
‘Paper Towns’ is drawn up of clichés, shallow characters and an apparent lack of sentiment. Coupled with what are far too many convenient implausibilities, the whole thing is just paper thin.