Making do within the confines of your average teen love/coming of age film, “Paper Towns” manages give the overdone genre a fresh take – and for you something to think about afterwards.
It’s about a shy nerdy boy, Quentin (played sincerely by Nat Wolff) being in love with the dreamy girl, Margot Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne, in her first leading role), for his entire life. On one of the last nights before high school ends forever, she shows up at his window despite not having talked to him for the past 9 years and they go on a revenge-fueled adventure, taking vengeance on the boy who did her wrong and his accomplices. The next day, she disappears. The movie that follows is Quinton finally taking initiative in his life and embarking on an adventure mystery to find her again. Accompanying him are his delightful rag tag gang of friends including his two typically dorky buddies, the hottest girl in school, and one of said dorky buddy’s girlfriend. It’s a story about first loves, friendship, and making memories as you finish one adventure and begin the next.
Beginning the movie is Q and Margot’s “love story” – one that propels you immediately into the thoughts of “oh god, not this again.” At first, Paper Towns can seem like your typical nerdy boy meets manic pixie dream girl story – and maybe at the heart that’s what this story is. But it’s also more than that as Margot ends up disappearing 15 minutes into the movie: it’s about firsts – and the nostalgia and the sense of adventure tied into them. It’s not about the love story of Margot and Q at all but what Margot stands for, and what she liberates Q to do. As she says to him after they pull off their big heist, “How you felt tonight is how you should feel your whole life.” And that’s really the story here that was worth telling – and worth watching. Paper Towns gets that, even though its main character doesn’t for a while.
Nat Wolff plays Q with a coolness and sensitivity and that makes him seem very real. He has a natural ability to be in front of the camera and not only that, but to feel at home in front of it. And though you can definitely tell this is Cara’s first time acting, something about her inherently communicates a sense of adventure just by her very being. But the movie is definitely made by its very strong supporting cast whose close banter is at once funny, fresh, and real. And it takes a while for the movie to get there, but at the end, it feels that way too.
Also, extra points for the Ansel Elgort cameo. Well done.
Paper Towns is now playing.