Paper Towns

 

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Cara Delevingne is a bonus but is not around long enough to salvage this flat coming-of-age mystery-drama.

 

Paper Towns

Missing link: Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff

 

Expectations are a pernicious thing. Paper Towns has two selling points: John Green, the author of the book on which the film is based, and the nominal female lead, Cara Delevingne. Green also wrote The Fault in Our Stars, Josh Boone’s film of which was, within the parameters of its genre, sweet, funny, believable and terribly poignant. Cara Delevingne is an alluring, quirky, earthy and ethereal presence, a pixie in jeans. Indeed, when the London-born actress-cum-model is on screen, the film is a devious and mischievous delight. But, although her character permeates the entire movie, Delevingne is not around for long. So, it is the story of a search.

 

The 18-year-old Margo Roth Spiegelman flits in and out of the life of her besotted neighbour, Quentin (Nat Wolff), and is up to all sorts of mysterious things. She just loves a good mystery – so much so, that she becomes one. She just disappears. This is when Paper Towns – named after the fictitious place names plonked onto maps to protect the cartographer’s copyright – grinds to a halt.

 

Much of the problem rests on the shoulders of Nat Wolff (from Josh Boone’s Stuck in Love and The Fault in Our Stars). Not only does he look like a teenage Adam Sandler, but he’s not that interesting. His two best friends are better value: Ben (Austin Abrams), a live-wire geek, and Radar (Justice Smith), a bookish type who recalls a teenage Richard Ayoade (maybe it’s the spectacles – or the hair). But the director Jake Schreier seems content just to allow these fellows to goof off as if that in itself is diverting. It isn’t. The film is also visually underwhelming, cinematically flat and largely implausible, while the ‘grown-ups’ float around in the background like cosmetic shadows. If this is the story of Quentin’s coming of age, we needed a better story. But not only is Paper Towns paper-thin, there’s no origami.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair, Cara Buono, Josiah Cerio, Hannah Alligood.

 

Dir Jake Schreier, Pro Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, from the novel by John Green, Ph David Lanzenberg, Pro Des Chris Spellman, Ed Jacob Craycroft, Music Ryan Lott, Costumes Mary Claire Hannan.

 

Fox 2000 Pictures/Temple Hill Entertainment/TSG Entertainment-20th Century Fox.

108 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 17 August 2015. Cert. 12A.