As I sat down to watch it, I wasn’t really sure what it was supposed to be about. From the trailer, it appeared to be about a tomboyish girl with headstrong eyebrows exciting a wallflowerish guy in his car. Would my guess prove correct? Kind of.
Our protagonist, Quentin (Nat Wolff), wants little other than a picket fence life and the attention of his neighbor, Margo (Delevigne). He’s been in love with her since they were kids, when she had equally intense brows. Quentin is a fairly boring protagonist for a high school movie that tries to be everything and nothing all at once. I found myself wondering if the movie would be better if he had been played by the guy from Whiplash, Miles Teller, who is at least interesting, and looks like a baby John Cusak.
One night, Margo climbs into his window and takes him on a spree of breaking-and-entering missions to help her unfriend her mean, popular best friends. In their neighborhood of suburban Orlando, no one has screens in their windows so it very easy to climb inside of other people’s houses. Margo’s penchant for being a bad girl makes the boring Q. excited, and he decides she’s a mystery woman.
Problem is, she disappears sometimes, for fun, and leaves behind literary and twee clues for anyone who cares about her whereabouts. At this point, the movie started to remind me of a Y.A. book I recently read called All the Bright Places, which has almost the same plot of a romance being interrupted by one person’s penchant for disappearing, except it was the guy and not the girl who liked to run away.
The difference is, that book is actually about something (bipolar disease, loss and suicide), whereas Paper Towns isn’t really about anything other than teenagers wanting to have an ideal prom. (For what it’s worth, I only gave All the Bright Places 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, because it had too many sentences like, “The smell of her hair reminded me of flowers.”)
Paper Towns gets momentarily enjoyable when Q. and four friends embark on a road trip to find Margo in an actual paper town, which is a fake town that is on maps because of plagiarism in cartography. (A very John Green thing to know about.) On the way, the other four characters in the movie take over for awhile. I’m guessing the directors figured out these side characters had actual chemistry/ were good actors and gave them more screentime.
This fun is quickly killed when they reach the paper town, and the movie totally stops making sense. I couldn’t really understand why a teenage girl would hide out alone in a creepy barn in a town that isn’t a real town. Girls tend to feel extremely unsafe in situations like this, John Green.
(Spoilers ahead) Q. eventually finds Margo after his friends have left, and he’s like we did it, we’re in love now. And she’s like boring guy? Why are you here? They hug and have a malt and she explains that being popular was her burden, and it made her fake, thus she must live in this fake paper town. How she has lodging, employment, food, etc. in this small, podunk town is not brought up. Q. leaves her behind and somehow still makes it to the prom even though the timeline is impossible, as evidenced by his friends leaving him hours earlier to get to the prom.
But the final lines prove that this is not just a manic pixie dream girl plot. “What a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person … She wasn’t some fine, precious thing. She was a girl.”
A good set of lines. This is why we like John Green some or most of the time. Here, Paper Towns makes a last-ditch attempt to be a 500 Days of Summer-esque NON-love story. Because people shouldn’t fall in love with a classmate right at the end of high school. It’s just not practical with the fun of college coming up. Maybe that’s what John Green is saying?
Either way, I found this movie boring and the part about a teenage girl hiding in a small town made little sense. I give it two Ansel Egorts out of 10. My dog, Josie seemed pretty bored. Here is her photo review.
“I give this movie a score of one creepy mailman.” – Josie