‘Paper Towns’ is one of the better coming of age films in recent years, but it is far from being one of the best. Its biggest flaw is perhaps one of the biggest troupes in coming of age dramas. There are a lot of classical references to music and poetry that are meant to give some depth to characters who spend a lot of time analyzing themselves, but the references are so saturated that that actually take things away. The references are quite as extreme, distracting, obnoxious as the ones in ‘Wild,’ but they could have been blended into the story rather than hammered in. The other film based on a John Green novel ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ had a much better balance with that particular troupe. It’s good to reference poets like Walt Whitman, but it should be done in a way that makes people want to look things up rather than being annoyed because they distract from the actual story on screen. There is a bit of cleverness in the film’s biggest flaw. It shows how people can often build others up in their minds to the point of where they no longer know or understand that particular person.
The main character Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff), has been building up his neighbor, former childhood friend, and classmate Margo Roth Spiegelman for years as his personal miracle. He has been building her up so much without really speaking to her that he no longer truly knows who she is as a person. It is a refreshing twist on the usual nerdy boy in love with the popular girl troupe. One night, Margo decides to take revenge on her clique after her boyfriend cheats on her with one of her best friends, and the other members of the clique who supposedly knew, but didn’t tell her. She decides to enter Q’s room after several years of not really speaking to him and invite him on her little adventure of revenge. She then disappears without a word to anyone. This is a habit of hers so much that her parents aren’t even concerned enough to film a missing person report. Q finds some clues Margo left behinds and eventually decides to go on a road trip with his friends to find her.
Throughout the film, the audience discovers that while Margo may be a person who likes adventures, she may not be the miracle Q has always believed her to be. He learns that one of the people they took revenge on was not a part of the cheating secret, showing that Margo had acted impulsively and didn’t always pay attention to even the people most closely acquainted with her. Q’s two best friends, fellow pigeon holed band geeks at the school, do a bit of growing and find a bit of courage (at least when it comes into interacting with the opposite sex) along the way. Though, there is a bit of gender commentary that must be made. It seems as though in films, when geeky men and boys interact with girls and women who are the general standard of beauty or hotness, they are able to maintain their geeky appearance in the end. Geeky girls, one the other hand, have to go through a makeover and get a completely new look when they become romantically involved with boys and men who are the general standard of attractiveness and hotness.
The characters are likeable in ‘Paper Towns’ they just aren’t the most memorable characters. There are a few good laughs to be had (another film that has more laughs than ‘Pixels’). It is overall enjoyable enough. It does have the feel of a book that was adapted to screen and a lot of important moments didn’t make the final cut and a few things feel rushed, but it is still a worthwhile film to see this summer and may be a worthwhile DVD to add to a collection if it happens to be on sale. ‘Paper Towns’ opened nationwide July 23 and is playing in the mainstream theaters around the Greater Dayton area. Three out of four of the films opening in the Miami Valley this weekend are decent options.