COMING-OF-AGE film Paper Towns surprised me. I had no idea what it was about, other than the fact that the film is based on the book of the same name by John Green, who also wrote The Fault In Our Stars, which was made into a film last year.
I was hoping Paper Towns would not be as manipulative and weepy as The Fault In Our Stars, and I was pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie between the three male actors, whose friendship forms the core of the film.
Based on the film's start, I had thought it'd be about a typical high school romance between geek Quentin (Nat Wolff), 18, and carefree Margo (Victoria's Secret model Cara Delevigne).
The two live across the street from each other in a Florida town and became fast friends at a young age but drifted apart during high school. Quentin pines for her, but Margo hangs out with the cool crowd and couldn't care two hoots about him.
I expected the film to be about the two reconnecting in time for the prom at the end of the school year, and about how Margo would be sorry she had strayed and that she should have stuck with safe and conservative Quentin.
It certainly looked that that was about to happen when Margo wakes up Quentin late one night and invites him on an adventure, which is to exact revenge on her studly boyfriend Jase, who has been cheating on her with her best friend.
Margo takes Quentin on a trip of a lifetime, letting her wild side get the better of her, but also pushing Q out of his comfort zone. She gazes down on the city and mutters something about paper towns and people not caring about something.
She disappears the next day without a trace, and the rest of the film is about Q's quest to find her, believing that she's leaving clues behind for him. Her parents couldn't care less as this is the fifth time that she's run away.
With her out of the way, viewers get to see the interaction between lanky Q and his two bosom buddies Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), who have been close since God knows when. They are so intimate with each other that Ben can say he'd like to tap Q's MILF mum and the latter can laugh it off.
The three realise that the final few weeks of high school could be their last time together as all three will disperse to faraway universities.Q's the leader of the trio. He's got his life planned out; he will go to college, become an oncologist, get married and have kids.
He's a guy who has followed a set path all his life and has not deviated from it. When he misses a quiz and asks the teacher whether he can retake it, the teacher alleviates his fear by telling him it's just a quiz and that he'll still become a surgeon.
Ben's the whiny one in the trio and will go to great lengths to be the fool of a party. Radar and his girlfriend plan to lose their virginity on prom night, so getting ready for the prom and attending it are of paramount importance to him.
Q's search for Margo takes him all over town, and the trio, with Radar's girlfriend and Margo's friend Lacey (pretty blonde Halston Sage), embark on a road trip in Q's mum's minivan (how convenient) to upstate New York state, a distance of about 1,200 miles. They believe they can find Margo and be back in time for the prom.
Wolff gives a credible performance as a teen in the first throes of love, but the best part of the film is watching the three guys mix with each other. Delevigne shows that she's a force to be reckoned with.
Paper towns, says Green, are not real places, but names on maps created to protect against copyright infringement.
In the film's case, the quest for a paper town and Margo reveals that the true meaning in life is something that right in front of you and has been there for a long time: the strong bond of friendship between the three teens. The three are inseparable and they're not complete without each one.
3 out of 5 stars