As a young adult I used to look down on all these idiots who grew up to work and live in the same small town they were raised. Once heroes of their school year now reduced into waddling doughnut sacks who have given up on everything short of breathing.
Yet look at me now! I’m currently living in roughly the same area I grew up. What a hypocritical bellend.
Well, not quite. I’ve been in a fortunate enough position to travel and see a fair amount of the world but I still vehemently believe that leaving your town and seeing other cultures is as important an education as any.
Cara Delevingne’s character Margo shares a similar sentiment. Margo is also a bit of a tomboy and given I’ve never dated girly girls it was easy to immediately like her character from the watching the trailer.
My outlook has mellowed some, since my younger days, so I was interested to see how I would react to Margo. Would she be my younger self’s ideal girl or would I find her free spirit intolerable?
Turns out it’s the latter. I was surprised but not because my viewpoint has changed it was because of how unexpectedly mature the film was.
Paper Towns could easily have been full of trashy over emotional teenage douche-baggery but this isn’t Twilight without vampires. It’s not just another coming of age teen flick. It’s a relatively sophisticated indie that explores love, life and friendship.
The rebellious and mysterious Margo calls on her neighbour Quentin (Nat Wolff) to help her invoke a night of mischief on her ex-boyfriend and anyone involved in this breach of trust.
This is a dream come true for the nerdy Q who had loved Margo since the day he saw her.
Mischief isn’t really in Q’s nature so it sets Q’s heart racing only to have Margo proclaim that this is how you should live every day. The next day Margo disappears so Q sets it on himself to track his love down.
I could suddenly see this film being a teenage sermon about living young and free, forever ‘man’. Just do what you want ‘dude’. Don’t let the man beat you down ‘bro’. This lecture never came.
We learn that Margo has run away before. We learn that Margo holds little thought for her friends and family. Ultimately we learn that Margo isn’t a manifestation of a perfect ideology. She is just a human, she is like you and me. She is, in her own way, broken and lost simply trying to make sense of where she fits in the world.
It’s not just Margo who isn’t a one dimensional bag of emotions either; Q and his friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) also follow suit.
The friends are built up to be your typical nerds and introverts who like Pokémon and brass bands. They’ve never been to a party and barely interact with girls but embark on an adventure and road trip to find Margo.
I could suddenly see this film being another teenage sermon about living breaking the mould or about the nerdy kids becoming legends. This never came.
Instead the road trip just develops the friendship between the three and actually reaffirms what is important to them. To hell work becoming popular. To hell with fitting in. They are who they are.
In this respect the film is a triumph but it lacks any real punch or gripping drama to make it an un-missable film and whilst I personally loved the ending because it performs a key role in building characterisation it also makes the whole film almost pointless.
If you have a nerdy streak then you’ll probably find this a fun and relatable film even if a lack of revelations means the drama fails to fully unfold in Paper Towns.
- Refreshing teen drama
- Character building
- Good ending
- Feels a bit flat at times
- Ending makes the whole film fell a bit pointless
- Margo isn’t the strong free spirit I hoped for