Review: PAPER TOWNS (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: PAPER TOWNS (2015)

PAPER TOWNS may have been lengthy and sometimes feels pedestrian, but the appealing cast along with its genre-bending setup made this teenage dramedy quite a worthwhile journey.

PAPER TOWNS boasts a fascinating premise that mixes equal parts of coming-of-age dramedy, teenage love, mystery and road-movie genre. Nevertheless, it got me hooked when I first saw the trailer and the fact it was also based from John Green's best-selling novel (yup, that same author behind last year's surprise hit of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS).


Quentin (Nat Wolff) has been harbouring a crush on his neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), who lived across the street since childhood. Both of them used to hang out together when they were kids, but subsequently drifted apart during their high-school years. Then one night, Margo shows up all of the sudden at Quentin's window and asking him to be her chauffeur on an all-night adventure of revenge against her friends who have betrayed her. It was particularly a memorable night for Quentin, but the following morning he discovers Margo has simply disappeared and no one is able to tell her whereabouts. Soon, Quentin manages to track down the first clue that seemingly left for him. With the help of his best buddies, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), they eventually set out on a cross-country journey to locate Margo after solving all the necessary clues.


From (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009) to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are no strangers for penning subtle teenage dramas. Here, their script is both charming and earnest. The movie is best seen when the story involving Quentin and his friends finally hit the road to track down Margo. From there, the movie captures the poignant moments of true friendship between Quentin, Ben and Radar throughout the cross-country journey. On top of that, there's a wonderful subplot involving the romance between Ben and Margo's best friend, Lacey (Halston Sage).

Then there's the unexpected ending, which I won't be revealed here. Let's say it caught me off guard in a way that it doesn't end like a typical teenage drama.

Director Jake Schreier, whose previous directing experience was a feature debut called ROBOT & FRANK (2012), knows how to make the most of his talented young cast. Nat Wolff, whose breakout supporting performance in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, does an admirable job portraying a socially awkward role as Quentin. English model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne is a real find, as she manages to impress with her first leading performance as Margo. Beyond her famous bushy eyebrows, Delevingne made good use of her husky voice and magnetic stare to convey a sense of equivocal complexity to her mysterious character.

As for the supporting cast, Justice Smith is hilariously deadpan as Radar, while Austin Abrams (TV's The Walking Dead) almost steals the show as the movie's major comic relief, Ben. Halston Sage, in the meantime, shines in her otherwise typical pretty-girl character with a surprising sense of emotional depth.


The hilarious moment involves Ben's uncontrollable urine situation inside the car.


Although the actors carry their individual roles well enough, some of the plot elements feel flimsy. When Margo went missing all of the sudden and only a string of clues are left for Quentin to connect all the dots, there's a strong potential within the mystery element. But instead of feeling captivated, the movie simply cruises along with little sense of tension as if it was directed in an auto-pilot mode. It's understandable that Jake Schreier tries to bring his indie sensibility to the movie's theme, but too bad he does it in such a restrained manner until the 109-minute running time feels curiously longer than it should.


In case you're wondering about the meaning of the title, it actually refers to a copyright trick used by cartographers to prevent their maps from being plagarised. As for the movie, PAPER TOWNS may have not captured the same cinematic impact like THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (even though both of them are different genres altogether), but remain sufficient enough as another worthy big-screen adaptation of John Green's novel.

* This review is written courtesy from 20th Century Fox Malaysia press screening *

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