Not entirely the typical high school rom-com drama
Based on a young adult novel by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and directed by Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank), Paper Towns starts out seeming like it's going to be just another teenage high school graduation romance comedy drama. With with its less conventional cinematography (David Lanzenberg) and great indie music instead, I could only expect something more at the end, and I'd have to say it delivers to a certain extent.
Enter Quentin "Q" Jacobsen (Nat Wolff), a type of character the older audience would find very familiar in films. He's one of the unpopular top students of the school, a.k.a. "nerds", who has never done anything really fun or memorable during school days. His neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), is the complete opposite of how he is. She's adventurous, rebellious, grew up to be one of the cool kid and dating a prom king. Q has always been in love with her but their childhood friendship grown apart after he declined to sneak out of home for her adventure. He's been waiting for a second invitation, a second chance, which he doesn't get until days before graduation day. He joins her in her all-night plan of revenge on her cheating boyfriend and best friends, which becomes the best night of his life, but then Margo mysteriously disappears on the next day.
Up to the end of the second act, the film seemed to me like nothing but a ripoff of Risky Business (1983) like The Girl Next Door (2004) or any other teen rom-coms about a goodie high school kid with unconditionally great friends, typically one extremely horny while the other one's smarter and reasonable, who's out to get his bad-ass dream girl before prom night. Of course, somehow it can never be the other way around gender-wise as the girls would seem like sluts and the film may automatically be labeled anti-feminist.
The development of the characters is a little weak and coming from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the screenwriters of The Fault in Our Stars (2014), the dialogues are expected to be cheesy and pretentious at times, but the film does have some fun and decently humoured moments (the pissing in the car scene is definitely not one of them) with the stars being faultless with their performances (pun intended), although it may be too harmless, juvenile and innocent compared to the other similar films.
The film truly shines when it transitions from childish puzzle-solving to a defining road trip with a surprisingly great twist to the story which I'm sure many teenagers could relate with, although it may not hit as emotionally hard as Taiwan's You're the Apple of My Eye (2011), which was based on the director's true story, way more honest and hilarious, and has a similar same kind of anti-fairy tale ending as this film. I have zero interest in reading the source material but I believe the point of the story is, some times you have to go through some shit for the thing you thought you need before you can finally be reassured of how and who you really are.
Malaysia censorship: Nothing seemed to be cut at the advanced press screening. Please let me know if you noticed any sort of censorship.
Second opinion: My girlfriend was disappointed that it's not the romance drama that she was expecting it to be.
Verdict: I thought I've seen it all before... until the admirable ending. A film for the small percentage of good kids who study hard but never learnt to do anything daringly fun at school.
Rating: 3 / 5
Based on: "Paper Towns" novel by John Green
Genre: Teen mystery comedy-drama
Running Time: 109 minutes
Director: Jake Schreier
Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage
Malaysia Release Date: 23 July 2015
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Temple Hill Entertainment, TSG Entertainment
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