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Review: ‘Paper Towns’ is a compelling teen drama with quality performances

2015-07-31-Paper-Towns-movie-posterBy MARK VIOLA

We’ve probably all had a person we knew as a young child who left a mark on us even if they later drifted or moved away. And in their absence, our memories of that person grew, magnifying their positives and ignoring their shortfalls. Given enough time, our version of that person may look and act very differently than the real thing.

That is one of the main issues facing the main character of “Paper Towns,” which navigates the turmoil that is high school with smart writing and steady direction to become, if not a classic, a solid film that doesn’t necessarily go in the direction you might first think.
Prior to last year’s teen drama “The Fault in Our Stars,” I had not heard of author John Green, upon whose book it was based. In my quite positive review of that movie, I stated the following: “Writing about teenagers is difficult for adults to get right, especially when the story portends to tell their ‘real’ story. Too often the teenage characters sound more like an author writing dialogue than actual human beings talking. But author John Green seems to have pulled it off, finding that oh-so-thin line between melodrama and wisdom, more commonly referred to as realism.”

That sentiment holds true for “Paper Towns,” which is also based on a Green novel and also features a collection of teenage characters dealing with the various ups and downs life has to offer. How they deal with these problems and each other, and the realistic nature of their portrayals, is the film’s biggest success.

“Paper Towns” is a solid teen drama, with good laughs mixed with a nuanced story filled with memorable characters who will not leave you soon after walking out of the theater.

The film is rated PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity–all involving teens.

(This is a shortened version of the full review available in our printed or e-edition papers.)

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