PAPER TOWNS – A Review by John Strange

DF-05969rv2 Longtime neighbors Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff) reconnect in a memorable way. Photo credit: Michael Tackett
DF-05969rv2 Longtime neighbors Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff) reconnect in a memorable way.
Photo credit: Michael Tackett
By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Jake Schreier
Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Halston Sage, Justice Smith
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity – all involving teens)
Selig Rating: Full Price
Runtime: 109 Min.
Paper Towns, the latest film to be made from one of John Green’s novels revolves around Quentin (Nat Wolff), known to his friends as ‘Q’.  As a child, he was enamored with the young lady across the street, Margo (Cara Delevingne).  Q is a little bit on the quiet side, willing to do things but always concerned about not getting in trouble.  Eventually, his friendship with Margo and her adventures came to an end though his feelings never did.
Over the years the two grew up and did what all kids do, going to school, doing things with their friends, looking forward to completing school.  They just no longer hung out together.  Q ran with Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) while Margo dated a jock named Jase (Griffin Freeman) and ran with Chuck (RJ Shearer), Becca (Caitlin Carver) and her best friend, Lacey (Halston Sage).
Q and his friends were for lack of a better term, band geeks.  Ben wants so much to find a date to the prom.  He is a bit jealous of Radar who has not only a date for the dance but a girlfriend.  Radar’s girlfriend, Angela (Jaz Sinclair) is nice normal young lady who isn’t sure why her boyfriend never includes her when he is doing things with his buddies.  Or why she has never been to Radar’s home.
Senior year comes along.  The kids are working their way through the year, each in their on clique.  One night Margo comes through Q’s second floor window just as she had when they ran together years before.  Margo wants to borrow Q’s van, and Q.  She has nine things she must do and she can’t use her own car (the keys are in her parent’s room in a locked safe protected by a dog who doesn’t like her).
The tasks involve Margo taking revenge on her friends.  Though Q hesitates he decides to do it when Margo lets him know that she is no longer dating Jase.  It seems Jase has been having sex with Becca while dating Margo. 
First stop is a store to pick up necessary equipment for their stops.  Watching the Nair, fresh catfish, Vaseline, spray paint and LOTS of Saran Wrap slide down the conveyor belt arouse not only our curiosity but the cashier’s as well.
The pair starts at Becca’s house where they break up Jase and Becca’s late night tryst.  Margo is brilliant in her planning.  We are allowed to watch the young man slip out of a window and race naked to his sports car following a call placed to the young lady’s parents.  While Becca’s parents are screaming at her, Margo and Q slip into the bedroom and leave the catfish in the closet.  Painting a large “M” on the wall, Margo plants a Post-It Note with a statement about Margo’s feelings for her ex-friend.
The next two stops are payback on Chuck and Lacey.  Like the first stop, the means for Margo’s revenge are brilliantly devious.  Both locations are marked with the spray painted “M” and the Post-It Notes cementing the end of the friendships.
Following these exploits (which include a father firing a shotgun in the air) the two go to a skyscraper where Margo knows the night guard.  They look out over the city and talk about the world.  Margo talks about paper towns and paper people.  She tells Q that he is cute when he is confident and less so when he isn’t.  Following a dance, they head for home.
At school the next day Q notices that Margo is not in any of her classes.  Margo has run away from home.  As it is not the first time, her parents decide not to pursue her as a runaway.  She is a wild child who will return when she gets bored or runs out of money.  Until then, they feel they should just let her be.
Q decides that Margo has left clues to her location.  He decides to follow those clues.  This mission leads the trio of young men to an abandoned building where they find writing on the wall (literally) that points them to investigate paper towns. 
Lacey convinces Q that she did not know about the infidelities of Jase and Becca.  In fact, she breaks up with Chuck over this issue.  She comes to Q to see if he has heard from her.  During the conversation, a party at Jase’s house is discussed.  Q doesn’t want to go but Ben and Radar decide to go.
Radar has to call Q to come help get Ben away from the party.  It seems he is drinking like a fish. While there Q runs upstairs to investigate Jase’s bedroom. As the room is in use (yes, that type of in-use), Q heads for the restroom.  While doing his “business”, Lacey asks him just what he is doing.  She invites him to join her in the tub.  To talk.  Afterwards Q snoops in the young man’s bedroom and finds an old map book.
This leads them back to the abandoned building where we are blessed with a rendition of the Pokemon Theme as they steel themselves to crawl through the “Troll Hole”.  As the boys get closer to finding the final clue to finding Margo, Lacey arrives at the building.  When they figure out where Margo has gone, she decides to join the boys on their road trip.  Before they can get away, Radar tells Angela about the party.  Following their discussion, she decides to join the boys on the road trip. 
The road trip, like all such road trips, has some excitement and a few laughs (watch for Ansel Elgort’s cameo!).  The terminus for the trip is a famous paper city in upstate New York.  Q is disappointed when Margo is not waiting for them.  The group is operating with a deadline. The two couples (Lacey invites Ben to go to the prom with her) must get back to Orlando in time to prep for the dance.  Though he has agreed to leave with everyone to meet the deadline, he now refuses to leave without Margo.
The group minus Q head back to Orlando.  Q looks over the one building in the paper town and then reluctantly heads to the nearest town to catch a bus home.  Shortly after buying his ticket he sees Margo walk by the store he is in.  Their conversation is poignant and touching.  This one scene ties everything in the film into a nice neat package that is satisfying and sad. 
I love the fact that John Green’s story brings Quentin home to be with his friends on this important day in their lives.  He is wiser than he was at the beginning of the story.  I think he is also happier and much more confident from his experiences.
Like The Fault in Our Stars, John Green has written an amazing story that has translated well to the big screen.  Paper Towns is a story for the whole family though the kids who devour Mr. Green’s books will love it most of all.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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