Quentin Jacobson is deeply under the thrall of the mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman. As children, the two were nearly inspererable, but teenage life has separated the them into different camps. Q, is cautious, studious and close with his best friends, Radar and Ben. Margo has chosen a more popular road, but always seems to be escaping to places unknown for the next big adventure. Still, not is all perfect in Margo’s world. After enticing Q into a night of pranks and revenge against a cheating ex-boyfriend, Margo seemingly dissappears entirely from their home in Orlando, Florida. What Q soon learns is that there are a series of intricate clues hidden by Margo to indicate where she has gone to. Q and his friends end up having the time of their lives trying to find the girl who has always lived hers to the fullest.
After John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars became a film, it was only a matter of time before his rich library of teen stories began to find their way to the public. John Green has a natural ability to get into the mind of the outcast and speak to a teenage generation. He is also gifted with the ability to create characters that are so multi-faceted that they seem realistic; Paper Towns is no exception. In the film adaptation, the character of Margo (Cara Delevingne) is both cultivating the image of “manic pixie dream girl” and shattering that image by being something so much greater. Quentin (Nat Wollf) is an anxious teenage overachiever, complete with the desires of a teenage boy and a drive to attend a major university and become an oncologist. Margo’s best friend, Lacey (Halston Sage), is horrified to find out people only find her attractive and can’t see that she is also brilliant beneath. Radar (Justice Smith) is incredibly smart, and yet insecure over introducing his girlfriend to his parents and their massive collection of African American Santa representations. Angela (Jaz Sinclair) becomes so much more than Radar’s girlfriend, and holds her own during the adventure. Even the stereotypical horndog, Ben (Austin Abrams), proves to be genuinely witty and charming.
While Paper Towns is beautifully well told and the soundtrack perfectly matched, there are a few frustrations that will arise for careful watchers. Quentin has an extremely difficult time keeping his eyes on the road while driving. While (spoiler alert) this later ties into the plot in a minor way, I found myself flinching every time he would look to his companions while driving on a major highway. The kid knows to use a handsfree device with a cellphone but not keep his eyes on the road? Margo seems to have an incredible amount of money to have pulled off her disappearances and pranks but yet we never get the answer to where she gets her money.With no high school diploma and no implied work experience, did Margo manage to find a job in a difficult economy? Her parents are indifferent to their daughter’s existence at best. Also, how the heck does Q keep managing to borrow his mother’s car when she was always the one driving him to school?
There are also some generational gaps for the audience. I laughed out loud when one of the characters begins to sing the Pokemon theme song while frightened, while many of the older viewers seemed perplexed at best during the scene. References to Sean Connery’s voice in the James Bond movies comes up a couple times, and that may be lost on the younger generations. These kids are well-versed in pop culture.
Paper Towns, in short, is a fantastic movie with a few easily ignored hiccups. The dialogue is witty, the characters believable and the story well worth watching. This is one of those rare few films that I can’t wait to own.