I have a peculiar relationship with Nat Wolff’s films. Stuck in Love is one of the best worst movies I’ve seen, so much so that I was considering it watching it again a few days ago; Admission was surprisingly agreeable, whereas Palo Alto is the best picture about teenage existentialism that I’ve seen. The Fault in Our Stars was exactly what I expected, which was not the case with Paper Towns, the plot of which I was entirely unaware of.
Each and every five of those movies have more on their mind than just surface level shenanigans. Both Stuck in Love and Palo Alto feature characters on a quest for self-destruction and unable to love. And while The Fault in Our Stars is pretty straightforward, Admission does make a point of what it means to face the chains of your past and admit that, again, love is not bad. Which brings us to Paper Towns, a movie which argues that happiness cannot be found on one person, but in the collection of moments, memories and friends one makes. Broken hearts are caused because the human mind elevated a single person to the status of a demigod and when that person fails to deliver, it takes all the dreams and illusions of the other person with them. And while all of that may be true, the only thing I really got out of the proceedings was how awfully boring it at all was.
This had the potential to be another The Spectacular Now, with characters sitting at the side of a road at midnight talking about the pangs of farewell, or dancing like nobody’s watching because that is what life is about. But it fails. In the end, this movie is like the girl at the heart of it: you keep expecting to see uniqueness, but it keeps giving you cliches.