Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paper Towns [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

Paper Towns [2015] (directed by Jake Schreier, screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber based on the teen-oriented novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by John Green [wikip] [GR] [Amzn] [IMDb]) follows in the pattern of several IMHO quite excellent "John Hughes-ish" high school oriented melodramas to come-out in recent years (Other films in the category that I'd include would be The Perks of Being a Wallflower [2012], The Spectacular Now [2013] and The Fault in our Stars [2014])  Characteristic to all these recent high school oriented melodramas is that one or another of the story's lead characters is dealing with (or not dealing with) some rather significant illness or otherwise "issue" in his/her life.

So this film is about the recollections of a rather conventional perhaps even somewhat nerdy young man named Quentin (played by Nat Wolff) of a (in his view) far more interesting/exotic former neighbor friend / classmate of his named Margo (played by Cara Delevingne).  She moved into his neighborhood when they were 10, they became friends, and then at some point, around the start of high school, "drifted apart."  It's not that they ever "got into a fight" or "became enemies."  It's just simply that Quentin became always "more circumspect / cautious" than Margo, who by taking more chances, also seemed to always have a more exciting life.  And yet it was a life that Quentin was actually actively choosing (though he may not have realized it) _not_ to have.

Now the John Hughes movies of my generation would generally make Quentin's reluctance to "jump into the fray" the film's problem.  FASCINATINGLY (for me anyway) that's not really the case here.

Yes, one random but (as it plays out) increasingly important night, "senior year", Margo comes back into his life in a big way, inviting him to participate THAT EVENING in a night that he would certainly remember, fondly, for a long-long time, perhaps his entire life.  BUT ... again, FASCINATINGLY, that one night isn't really the film's point or even high point.  It's what follows that becomes (increasingly) interesting ...

Margo disappears after that one spectacular night and Quentin along with his wonderfully portrayed (and again much more pedestrian) friends spend much of the rest of the film LOOKING FOR HER.

Do they find her?  I'm not going to tell you.  Is the climax of the film satisfying?  I'm not going to tell you either.  What I do have to say is that the film (which does soft-pedal the ending of the book on which it is based) IMHO hits _exactly_ the right notes at the end.

Yes Margo was / is a fascinating person.  But then, so were / are EVERYBODY ELSE -- even the quieter and perhaps nerdier Quentin and his friends.

Honestly that's a GREAT MESSAGE and (though I loved John Hughes' films when I was growing up) BETTER (!) than most of John Hughes' works.  So great job folks and honestly a very useful / insightful teen-oriented film!

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