Paper Towns parents guide

Paper Towns Parent Review

Well not particularly inspiring from an artistic perspective, the solid performances by a young cast will likely make this an appealing watch for its target demographic.

Overall C

Quentin (Nat Wolff) has always admired his neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne), but she barely acknowledges his existence. And just when he has reason to hope that might be changing for the better -- she mysteriously disappears. However, Margo has left a trail of clues behind, so Quentin enlists his closest friends to help him find the girl of his dreams.

Violence B-
Sexual Content C+
Profanity C
Substance Use C

Paper Towns is rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity - all involving teens.

Movie Review

Coming-of-age is a well-trod path in film scripts. Makers of such movies have the distinct advantage of recycling their tale with a perpetually new crop of viewers. Yet these pimples-to-beard stories are an often-sad reflection of the era in which they released. In the case of Paper Towns, its focus is the loneliness of members of the millennial generation who are desperate to find meaning in a life of privilege and excess.

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We are immediately introduced to Quentin (Josiah Cerio/Nat Wolff), who grows up from a young boy to a high school senior in middle class Orlando, Florida. During these years his success with school has been dampened by a persistent childhood crush on the girl next door.

Margo (Hannah Alligood/Cara Delevingne) has more of a taste for adventure than her timid neighbor—something Quentin learns when the childhood chums stumble upon the body of man who has committed suicide (some blood is shown). While Margo’s inquisitive side comes alive trying to uncover the details of the mystery, Quentin wants to wash his hands of the disturbing situation. The incident proves to be a turning point of their friendship.

By high school the pair hardly even acknowledge each other in the halls. Then, suddenly, Margo shows up at her neighbor’s bedroom window, just as she used to when they were kids. Convinced she can convince her long time admirer to join her, she berates Quentin for his cautious personality and advises that happiness should be had now, as opposed to waiting until after he’s completed his career goals, which include medical school. The argument works and Quentin concedes to stealing his mother’s van and taking part in an evening of committing vengeful and illegal acts against those who have wronged Margo over the course of her short life.

When the morning sun rises, a cheating boyfriend has been caught running naked from Margo’s best friend’s house (we clearly see him from the side and rear), another nemesis has an eyebrow taken off while asleep (hair removal cream works so well in the movies) and Lacey (Halston Sage)—a second girlfriend deemed inconsiderate—has her car wrapped in plastic wrap. Margo is satisfied and Quentin, who is convinced they have finally bonded during their hijinks, is more love-struck than ever.

Then Margo disappears.

Not wanting to reveal his involvement in the missing girl’s shady activities, Quentin tells the police and Margo’s parents that he only saw her for a moment that final night. However, his unfailing admiration for her motivates him to try and find her himself. Convincing his best friends Ben and Radar (Austin Abrams, Justice Smith), along with Lacey and Radar’s girlfriend Angels (Jaz Sinclair) to join him in the search, the group follow a trail of cryptic clues left behind by the melodramatic runaway.

Slowly meandering through its scant plotline, Paper Towns implies that audiences are supposed to be learning something deeper while watching these adolescents reluctantly make their way to young adulthood. There are some moments of enlightenment, like when Radar finally begins to communicate with Angela about who he really is. The sex-obsessed Ben also discovers there is more to girls than their outward appearance. And, of course, the protagonist is destined to have an epiphany. Sadly, their paradigm shifts don’t offer anything substantial enough to really satisfy – or provide much hope for the future.

And then there is the experienced father in me that can’t help but wonder the obvious: Where are the parents of these kids? Won’t Quentin’s mother be surprised that her van is missing? And, who’s buying the food and gas for their road trip?

There are some common messages that form the foundation blocks of the coming-of-age genre. First, they magnify the difficulties of transitioning into adulthood, and emphasize the desire to rebel from expected conventions. They present the false notion that a person can have independence without having to accept responsibility or consequences.

Quentin and his gang take detours into drinking (one character is so inebriated that he vomits, and later urinates), teen sex (a passionately kissing/fondling couple is shown, as are implied relationships) and frequent sexual discussion. As well they throw around their fair share of profanities, scatological slang and terms of deity.

Well not particularly inspiring from an artistic perspective, the solid performances by a young cast will likely make this an appealing watch for its target demographic. Considering the mixed messages embedded in the story, parents would do well to share the experience with their kids and/or be prepared to discuss their perspectives on the journey of life.

Directed by Jake Schreier. Starring Cara Delevingne, Nat Wolff, Halston Sage. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release July 24, 2015. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Paper Towns here.

Paper Towns Parents Guide

There are several generations of teen coming of age stories. Some include The Breakfast Club, An Education and Boyhood. What similar elements do these script contain? What things are different? Do they reflect the contemporary issues of the time in which they are made? What universal emotions do they explore? Do they offer any hope or meaningful advise to their viewers?

Margo tells Quinton that his life goals, which include medical school and marriage, mean that he is postponing happiness for at least 12 years. Do you agree with her perspective? Is it possible to find happiness even when you are doing boring, conventional things like studying or starting a family? Margo also says, “When your heart is beating in your chest—that’s how you know you are having fun”. What do you think of her definition of a good time? What might be the consequences for someone who pursues thrills and semi-illegal activities as a source of amusement? Are their any constructive ways to expand one’s comfort zone or find adventure?

This movie takes its name from a practice of mapmakers, who created fake names of towns (so the places existed only on paper) that they drew on their maps, as a way to catch anyone who might be infringing on their copyrights. Learn more about the history of paper towns here.

More About the Movie:
Paper Towns is based on a novel by John Green who also authored The Fault In Our Stars.

From the Studio
Adapted from the bestselling novel by author John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”), PAPER TOWNS is a coming-of-age story centering on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo, who loved mysteries so much she became one. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears—leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving. Ultimately, to track down Margo, Quentin must find a deeper understanding of true friendship—and true love. © Fox