Paper Towns
dir Jake Schreier
prd Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
scr Scott Neustadter, Michael H Weber
with Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair, Cara Buono, Griffin Freeman, RJ Shearer, Caitlin Carver, Meg Crosbie, Ansel Elgort
release US 24.Jul.15, UK 17.Aug.15
15/US Fox 1h49
Paper Towns
Best night of his life: Delevingne and Wolff

abrams buono elgort
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Paper Towns Up until halfway in, this teen comedy-drama has a nicely realistic tone, strong characters and a series of clever twists on the usual high school set-pieces. Then the plot kicks in, diverting the story into rather simplistic melodrama and sentimentality. It's still entertaining thanks to the bright young cast, but it never becomes very memorable.

Quentin (Wolff) has had a crush on his neighbour Margot (Delevingne) since they were kids. Now in the final lap of their senior year, they've drifted apart: Quentin focussing on his studies, while Margot rebels. But one fateful night she needs his help to get even on her cheating boyfriend (Freeman). And when she vanishes the next day, Quentin gathers his friends Ben and Radar (Abrams and Smith) to follow a series of clues to find her, embarking on a road trip with Margot's best friend Lacey (Sage) and Radar's girlfriend Angela (Sinclair).

Along the way, the filmmakers play with the usual tropes: peer pressure, illicit parties, college plans, loss of virginity and of course the prom. And the main theme is expressed frequently: that merely doing what's expected isn't actually living. The title refers to fictional towns cartographers put on their maps to spot plagiarists, a metaphor that never quite makes thematic sense but sounds intriguing from an angsty adolescent perspective. And in the end, the somewhat dubious message is that teens need to run away from home to find themselves.

The movie is beautifully anchored by Wolff as a smart, socially awkward 18-year-old who feels like he's only just beginning to live. "You're cute when you're confident," says Margot, as she pushes him to break free of the constraints of being a good-guy nerd. Delevingne ihas magnetic screen presence, although Margot is too enigmatic to engage with. So the film's most enjoyable relationship is between the three buddies, and Wolff, Abrams and Smith have a natural camaraderie that's both hilarious and surprisingly warm.

The interaction between these three young guys keeps the film buoyant right to the end, even as the narrative gets stuck in some rather corny potholes (the very last scene is frankly impossible). But director Schreir strikes just the right balance between the sparky humour and the more sober drama, gripping the audience by emphasising the actors' youthful energy. Even when Quentin's trite final voiceover attempts to wax eloquent about what he's learned.

cert 12 themes, language 30.Jul.15

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