49. Paper Towns (PG-13) - Runtime: 109 minutes
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams
Director: Jack Schreier
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
I read the book before I saw the movie and I wasn't particularly fond of it. I just didn't connect with the characters. Maybe I'm getting old - I thought they were all naïve and dumb teenagers trying way too hard to be deep. The movie does do a lot of trimming of the book and the characters don't get a whole lot of room to breathe except the main character. The problem is the overbearing narrative of trying to figure out the mystery of Margo's disappearance. The film was light and fun and I applaud the author's and screenwriters' attempts at trying to deconstruct the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" trope, but it doesn't quite hit the mark. There will be some SPOILERS BELOW.
The film is narrated by Quentin, who happens to fall very hard at a very early age for his neighbor, Margo. They used to be friends, but they went their separate ways in high school. He barely talks to her but still crushes on her hard. He thinks he's in love with her, but throughout the film it becomes painfully obvious no one knows who Margo is. I really enjoyed the idea that the story puts forth - we spend too much time idolizing and projecting our versions of people, especially women and celebrities (in this case, Margo is a celebrity in high school) onto them that we only understand who they are from our point of view. The movie finds itself presenting this at the end of the movie and it's quite the 180-spin that the movie is building up to.
Most of the movie we're taken on a whirlwind tour of Margo and her cool history and Quentin's obsession with finding her. It culminates in a long road trip to New York where Quentin professes his love and resoundingly gets rejected. I'm glad the story ends up at that point because it's an important message, but the film never hints at this ending or supports it throughout. You are expecting a tired, romantic ending because the film itself is tired and romantic. It ends with Quentin's realization that really his time with his friends was the most important thing in his life, not Margo. Which is nice, but it is completely obvious that the Quentin and Margo are very selfish and terrible people.
Quentin doesn't have time to hang out with friends unless they tag along with him on his quest to find Margo. He doesn't care that much about how their lives are going. And Margo is even worse - she selfishly runs away leaving her younger sister to deal with her awful parents alone and doesn't even bother talking to her best friend about all the drama that happened between her and her boyfriend. The kicker is that she decides not to go to college, but instead hang out in the middle of Nowhere, Upstate New York with no plans for her future.
I detest those hippy-dippy people who "live in the moment" and don't make at least some sort of plans. I understand trying to find yourself and exploring the world, but maybe you want to get an education so you're not working some lame waitressing job in your mid-thirties with no clue what to do and you've burned all your bridges back home so you can't rely on support. Ugh, it's just so selfish and dumb.
Okay, my rant on the characters are done. The movie is enjoyable enough, but it finds itself too fixated on mystery, rather than the characters, that it doesn't effectively draw me in. Maybe I'm old, maybe I'm too old-school with my thinking on education, but I just could not get past the baffling stupidity of these teenagers.
RATING: THIS PAPER TOWN IS A C+