Disappointing coming-of-ager featuring Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne
This coming-of-age film, directed by Jake Schreier and based on the novel by John Green, sees a teenage boy learn the valuable, long overdue lesson that women are people too. Yes, really. In the grand tradition of American teen movies, a boy admires a girl from afar for years but never tells her how he feels until graduation comes around.
This adaptation attempts to pick apart the notion of the manic pixie dream girl and show what a terrible thing it is to place anyone on a pedestal. But it just isn’t smart enough to do the concept much justice, and some irritating clichés arise due to the story being told from the male protagonist’s limited point of view. Unlike the more subversive Ruby Sparks, written by Zoe Kazan, which savagely mocked the cutesy women conjured up by deluded male writers, the screenplay – from Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber, who also adapted The Fault in Our Stars and wrote (500) Days of Summer – takes a step backward, and feels like a throwback to the 80s.
Attention falls on the friendships and bonds that form on a road trip to find the childhood friend / ultimate crush of Q (Nat Wolff), Margo (Cara Delevingne), who has left clues as to her whereabouts. Q’s best friends are the neurotic Radar (Justice Smith) and loudmouth Ben (Austin Abrams), who prove far more interesting than him. They are joined by Angela (Jaz Sinclair), who is dating Radar, and Lacey (Halston Sage), who is sick of being branded beautiful rather than smart. The young supporting cast are fantastic and share a decent rapport, despite some iffy dialogue. And Paper Towns does nail one of the key components of the teen movie by compiling an excellent indie pop soundtrack, including Haim’s 'Falling'.
Yet this is another bittersweet film about boys growing up and demystifying women that disappointingly short-changes its female characters. For a truly insightful coming-of-ager that luxuriates in the highs and lows of desire from a different, more credible perspective try watching Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl.
General release from Mon 17 Aug.