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Paper Towns


Stars: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair, Cara Buono

Director: Jake Schreier

Since the genesis of this routine rites-of-passage offering is a novel by The Fault in Our Stars author John Green you know exactly what to expect from adaptors Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and director Jake Schreier – sanitized-for-the-teen-target-audience characters and performances to match.

(The absence of opening actor credits makes sense – there are no ‘names’ in the cast apart from supermodel Delevingne).

Teenager Nat Wolff’s growing love for his enigmatic neighbour Cara Delevingne catalyses the narrative with Wolff summarizing the storyline with: “Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one”.

Wolff’s romantic fantasies appear to come true one night when Delevingne suddenly appears at his window and tells him “I need to borrow your car”. She then inveigles him into joining for a night of vengeance for wrongs committed against her, including spraying something on a sleeping boy's eyebrows that dissolves them, photographing a lad forced to flee naked from his girlfriend’s bedroom.

The next day, however, romance evaporates. Delevingne runs away from home for the fifth time, leaving Wolff and friend to follow clues she has left and embark on a road trip (and for two to lose their virginity during the journey) to find her in an eponymous Paper Town and get back in time for that Small Town Armerican staple, the High School Prom…

Targeted teenagers with time on their hands may warm to the story. Wolff, in particular, gives more depth to his paper-thin role than it deserves and there are attractive locations on view as the teens drive north from Orlando to New York State.

The real problem here for me was that, apart for the collection of small town and high school clichés decorating the story, the film is betrayed by the dramatic vacuum at its centre.

That blank is Delevingne. She is famed as a model. As an actress, however, she is a blank with the charisma of an unexposed role of film.

Undemanding romance inclined teens might well enjoy themselves: Cliché-sensitive older filmgoers might well be praying for a power cut to kill the projectors.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Fox. Colour by deluxe.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 17 Aug 2015