I actually knew what a paper town (or phantom settlement) was going in to the film, my personal favourite being Argleton in West Lancashire, Paper Towns was always going to have a hard time living up to that.
This is the second film adapted from a book written by John Green (the first being The Fault in our Stars), and even though these stories are clearly not aimed at me, something is very clear: John Green is a very good writer. Well, I haven’t actually read any of his books, but he at least has some great ideas, puts intelligent thought into his work, and does things differently.
Paper Towns is a great example of all of these things. The story follows Quentin (played in a suitably bumbling way by Nat Wolff, who was part of the supporting cast in The Fault in our Stars), as he searches for the love of his life, who is also the girl next door, who goes missing after they spend an exciting night getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and his friends. It doesn’t sound that different, but it’s the smaller ideas around the story that make is unique. Also the fact that this is a young adult romance with a male lead. A lot of hubbub is made about the fact that women are under-represented in blockbusters, but the same could be said about men in romantic films.
Something that worked really well was the way Quentin and his friends acted in the majority of circumstances. It was one of the most accurate portrayals of teenage boys I’ve ever seen, and the aforementioned Nat Wolff, as well as his two friends (also played well by Austin Adams and Justic Smith, who both sound like superhero alter egos) all felt very genuine.
There was one rather big issue I had with this film however. It encourages bad behaviour in young people to a level not seen since Rizzo sang ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ in Grease. It romanticized running away from home, under-age drinking and smoking, theft, breaking and entering, unfairly using people to get what you want both inside and outside of the law, paying children to look around their homes while their parents are out, graffiti, getting revenge in a way that far outweighs the wrongs that were done to you, and illegal sexual activity (well, doing the nasty outdoors).
Paper Towns is good fun, and I left the film with a big smile on my face. All of the things mentioned above did make me question whether or not this film was right to show some of the things it showed, especially in a film primarily designed for teenagers, but ultimately it did have a good message.
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