BUOYED by the success of teen weepie The Fault In Our Stars, based on the book by John Green, scriptwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter attempt to recreate the magic with this adaptation of Green’s bittersweet third novel.
Paper Towns deals with similar themes of alienation and sexual awakening from the perspective of peer pressured teenagers, whose existence hinges on finding a date for the end of year prom.
Director Jake Schreier sensitively navigates turbulent waters, eliciting solid performances from a young cast including leading man Nat Wolff, who played blind best friend Isaac in The Fault In Our Stars.
But in the absence of a dramatic hook like terminal illness, Schreier’s film sometimes lacks momentum and is missing a big emotional crescendo. However, there’s a refreshing refusal to succumb to sentimentality when the going gets tough and the script doesn’t polish the characters’ rough edges in order to tie up loose plot strands.
The film’s unassuming hero is Florida high school student Quentin Jacobsen (Wolff), who has been madly in love with neighbour Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) since she moved into the house across the street.
He has never mustered the courage to declare his feelings, to the chagrin of friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), who are also poorly equipped to communicate with the opposite sex.
Out of the blue, Margo knocks on Quentin’s bedroom window and asks him to help her wreak revenge on her cheating jock boyfriend (Griffin Freeman).
The covert mission is a success but the next morning, Margo does not turn up for class. She vanishes without trace and her parents assume she has run away again.
Quentin knows Margo leaves secret markers when she goes walkabout, so he follows a treasure hunt of cryptic clues to track her down.
Paper Towns refers to fictional locations, which cartographers intentionally add to maps to prevent their hard work being plagiarised.
Many of the underlying themes of Schreier’s film feel second-hand , but the script treats characters and their predicaments with cool, genuine affection.
Delevingne is a puckish foil to Wolff’s naivete, and Abrams and Smith banter effectively as comic relief.
Young hearts run free to a soundtrack of indie pop and rock including Vampire Weekend and Twin Shadow.
Check your local cinema for show times.