2015 / Director. Jake Schreier.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
PAPER TOWNS must have been torn out of a 1980's 'how to make teen dramas' guide. There is a timeless sense of romanticism to this story of a boy chasing a girl and finding himself along the way. It's the type of film that John Hughes might have made, or perhaps a young Cameron Crowe.
Quentin (Q) and Margo (M) were best friends as kids and they were inseparable right up until the point of a significant incident setting them on different paths. Eleven years later Q wakes up one night to find M climbing through his bedroom window. They sneak out and embark on a night of revenge as she acts out against her cheating boyfriend and the friends who protected him. The next morning she vanishes without a trace. Days pass and Q discovers cryptic clues left behind and with the company of his best friends he takes off on a road trip to find her. All of these details were revealed in the film's promotional trailer and are, by no means, spoilers.
PAPER TOWNS is an unexpected coming of age story that brilliantly juggles drama, comedy and romance without lapsing into an overtly cliched formula. I am thankful that I have never read the novel from which it's adapted because I was treated to a an unpredictable mystery and whisked me away from my own reality for one hundred minutes.. In fact there was never a point at which I knew exactly where the story would end up and putting my trust in director Jack Schreier was oddly comforting. He has delivered an excellent film that plays its cards carefully.
The key to the film's success is, without question, its casting. Every single character has a purpose and all of the players understand the story's sensibilities. The dynamics between the three guys is wonderful and their tight bond is completely believable. Austin Abrams is particularly excellent as the carefree friend who just wants to have fun. He delivers the bulk of the movie's comedy and he owns every moment. The dialogue is smart, the cinematography is gorgeous and the soundtrack is perfect.
If I were to nit-pick I would say that there are various details that are all too convenient. For example, some of the problem solving within the mystery is rather ambiguous and the characters make some fairly bold assumptions. Having said that, I also have to consider the melodramatic aspect of the film and I am happy to disregard such things. They're all part of a much greater story holding on to the romanticism is important.
PAPER TOWNS is a teenage movie that crosses the generational divide. There are no typical teenage cliches, nor are there modern references to tech junk like social media or Snapchat.