Daire Walsh takes another look at Jake Schreier’s Paper Towns.
She may be known across the world as a fashion model, but with a number of projects currently in development, we can expect to see the film career of London native Cara Delevingne gathering pace over the next 12 months or so.
After making her big-screen debut as Princess Sorokina in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina in 2012, she also had a key role in The Face of an Angel, a psychological thriller from Michael Winterbottom, which was based on the real-life case of murder suspect Amanda Knox.
Later this year, she will reunite with Wright on Pan (an origin story centering on Peter Pan and Captain Hook), while in 2016, she will take on the role of Enchantress in David Ayer’s eagerly-anticipated DC Comics ensemble, Suicide Squad.
In terms of budget, Jake Schreier’s Paper Towns pales in comparison to both Pan and Suicide Squad, but considering the success that The Fault in Our Stars – which, like Paper Towns, was adapted from a novel by John Green – had from a similar-sized budget, there was always the potential for the film to reach a wide audience.
However, whereas The Fault in Our Stars arrived on screens in 2014 just two years after the publication of Green’s novel, Paper Towns has taken a total of seven years to make the same transition. This is somewhat suprising, as the film rights for the book were acquired in the same year as the book was published (2008), and when you consider the length of time it has taken for Green’s best-selling book to arrive in theatres, the core fanbase will be wondering if it was truly worth the wait.
Set in Orlando, Florida, Paper Towns focuses on Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (Nat Wolff), and his relationship with childhood friend Margo Roth Spiegelman (Delevingne), who moved into his neighbourhood at a young age.
After initially being inseparable, “Q” and Margo eventually drift apart (as she becomes more popular), until Margot arrives at his bedroom window one evening asking for his assistance as she seeks revenge for the betrayal she has suffered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, as well as some of her closest friends.
“Q” reluctantly helps her, but following a night filled with high-jinks, he is happy in the knowledge that he has managed to re-connect with the girl of his dreams. However, it is soon revealed that Margot has run away for the umpteenth time, and with the help of his best friends – Ben (Austin Abrams) and “Radar” (Justice Smith) – “Q” attempts to discover what has happened to her, and where she can be found.
While Shaileene Woodley was already established as an actress before appearing in The Fault in Our Stars (she was Oscar-nominated for her role in The Descendants), this had the potential of being a star-making turn for Delevingne.
Yet, despite being advertised as one of the leading stars of the film, Delevingne actually has precious little screen-time throughout the film. Indeed, much of the drama is driven by her absence from the story, and focuses more so on the close bond that “Q” and his friends enjoy.
This is, of course, consistent with the trajectory that the source novel takes, but it is actually Wolff (who also worked on the aforementioned The Fault in Our Stars) who is likely to gain the biggest plaudits in the long run.
It is difficult to find fault in the performances of the principle cast, and as the best friend of the much-discussed Margot, Halston Sage is a particular stand-out.
Unfortunately, although it is a film that has many fine ideas and intentions, Paper Towns never quite comes to life in the way that director Schreier (whose previous film, Robot & Frank, was highly-acclaimed) would have intended.
It does attempt to cast an analytic eye over the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but you are often left wondering why it is that “Q” finds Margot so desirable. That being said, the main issue the film faces is regaining momentum following an uneventful middle section.
During this juncture in the narrative, “Q” tries to decipher the enigmatic trails that Margot has left behind, which will ultimately end with a road trip to one of the eponymous Paper Towns.
This is when the film comes to life again, and with Sage and Jaz Sinclair’s Angela joining the three best friends on an exhausting journey across America, the influence of John Green becomes more evident.
There is also fun to be had in opening act, when “Q” and Margot embark on their adventure into the night, and even though it isn’t a comedy in the truest sense (or at least not a broad one), there are some well-judged laughs along the way.
In the end, however, the subject matter of Paper Towns simply isn’t as heavy as that of The Fault in Our Stars, and as a result, this is probably why it feels somewhat incidental and inconsequential, though not without merit.