Paper Towns

Paper Towns

(M) Starring: Cara Delevingne, Nat Wolff

Coming-of-age films are nothing new, but Hollywood manages to propagate a new batch for each generation. Every once and a while, one stands out from the rest. From Rebel Without a Cause to Say Anything and The Breakfast Club, this genre has provided positive memories and lines that resonate throughout the younger years of many of us. Paper Towns and its author John Green have struck this chord; Green’s story about the high-school journey of Quentin (Nat Wolffand his mysterious neighbour Margo (Cara Delevingneprovides a voice for this generation.

Quentin and Margo are friends throughout their childhood but have grown apart over the years.On a fateful night during their last year of high school, Margo asks Quentin for his help on a mission of revenge against friends who have done her wrong. The midnight escapade becomes a life-changing event for Quentin. He begins again to pine for Margo, who disappears suddenly and mysteriously. Family and friends want to know where she is and the mystery deepens as Quentin finds clues that Margo left behind. To find this teenage runaway, Quentin recruits his band of friends. Throughout their road-trip-of-a-lifetime, Quentin finds out more about himself, his relationships with his friends and what to do with his misplaced love for the mysterious Margo.

During the opening sequences of Paper Townsit feels like it’s going to follow the predictable coming-of-age narrative: Boy meets girl, girl lives across the street, girl lives an adventurous life and boy pines after her from a distance. Quickly, director Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank) pulls the story out of the hormonal malaise and into the kaleidoscope of different expectations. His lead characters provide an unexpected depth, and Wolff and Delevingne have been perfectly cast in this teen mystery. Wolff proves to have a John Cusack (Say Anything) quality that makes him appealing as the average boy that proves cool in the end, while Delevingne provides enough smouldering excitement to make her worth this young man’s pursuit.

They are surrounded by a wonderful cast of characters that compliment the comedic dialogue and the contemplative moments of the script. This is where the film differentiates itself within this genre. Even within the stereotypical trappings of the party scene, suggested teen sex and proverbial geek trio, the writing lifts the story of the post-pubescent mire. It may seem unrealistic to think that teens could speak at the depth that they do in Paper Towns, but the characters make these lines plausible and accessible.  There is a maturity with a twist of hormonal angst that gives this story the necessary edge it needs. Also, the conclusion adds a unique twist that provides a surprising satisfaction to the adventure.In the realm of teen dramas, Paper Towns offers a new perspective on a generation. But if there are any difficulties with the film, they lie in the lack of parental involvement. Among all the typical American high-school scenarios on display, there’s a gaping hole in the narrative where parents should be. The only people who seem to speak into the lives of these kids are other kids. This might be an insight into the lives of families today or a warning signal for parents to get more involved in the lives of their children. Regardless of the actual message trying to be conveyed, the lack of any adult wisdom leaves a void in an otherwise engaging script. As it stands, though, entertaining Paper Towns does delivers a golden opportunity for parental dialogue with their teens on many of the transitional issues of their lives.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

 1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)
2. Is life mysterious? (Colossians 2:1-3, Matthew 13:11-13)
3. Does God care about my dreams? (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 16:3)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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