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Movie Night – 'Paper Town' is friendship (Aug. 5, 2015 issue)

Paper towns: towns marked on maps that don’t exist but are used to help cartographers avoid and identify plagiarism of their maps. At least, that’s what it means according to John Green, author of the book “Paper Towns.” The movie chronicles the odyssey that is the final days of high school for a select few students in Orlando, Florida.
Quentin Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) lives next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne). As children they were best friends, inseparable from the moment Margo moved in across the street. Margo was always hungry for adventure, mysterious in the way that little girls are always an enigma to little boys. As Margo and Quentin grew older they grew apart, not by Quentin’s choice. Margo became part of the cool crowd, the “it” girl in high school. Quentin became smart, funny, and devoted to his school work and potential career and began to hang out with friends who were more like him. Not necessarily nerds, but definitely not part of the cool clique.
Though it seemed to Quentin that Margo had completely forgotten that Quentin existed, even though he lived just across the street, Quentin most definitely never forgot about Margo. Despite the gulf that had grown between them and the different social spheres they populated, Quentin couldn’t stop himself from loving Margo.
With only days left in their senior year of high school Quentin and his friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), are planning for college and prom. Well, at least Radar is planning for prom since he is the only one with an actual girlfriend. Late one night a shadowy, hooded figure climbs in Quentin’s window. Margo. She needs a sidekick and getaway driver for a night of revenge she has planned for her cheating boyfriend and anyone who played any part in her deception. Naturally, Quentin readily agrees and has the best night of his life.
The next day Margo is gone, vanished. Not at home, not at school, she’s just gone. Margo has done this before, but she always leaves a clue for her little sister indicating where she can be found. This time Quentin finds the clue. He convinces himself that Margo is in love with him and is leading him to her location so they can be together. Margo, Quentin believes, is in a paper town in New York and is determined to find her. Quentin and company load up in his minivan for a road trip to a town that doesn’t exist, a paper town.
I will admit to a certain amount of skepticism as I took my seat in the theater. I liked “The Fault in Our Stars,” but this movie seemed different somehow, like I would be the oldest person in the theater by a good twenty years. I hadn’t read the book so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story. I found characters that were more relatable and real than those in “The Fault in Our Stars.” Quentin, Margo, Ben, and Radar are real kids, someone that you might know, and that alone made the movie better than expected.
The meat of the story is the road trip from Orlando, Florida to upstate New York. The characters learned more about themselves and their friends in those few days than they had discovered in four years of high school. Be prepared to reflect on your own time in high school.
Nat Wolff was impressive as Quentin. He was smart, funny, likable, and devoted to Margo. You can’t help but like both the actor and the character. Cara Delevingne as Margo is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Margo is self-absorbed and mean in an unintentional way and it didn’t appear much acting was necessary from model-turned-actress Delevingne.
At its heart, “Paper Towns” is about friendship, the kind of friendships you have in high school and never seem to have again as you get older. It’s a movie that can be enjoyed by teenagers and those of us who used to be teenagers.
Grade: B+
Rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity.