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“Paper Towns” surprised me, much like The Fault in Our Stars surprised me. I find John Green’s YouTube video series to be pompous at times, but there’s something strong under the surface. The film treads into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory, but our heroine Margo dares to be something different. Channeling equal parts Thoreau and Beat Generation, Margo wants to get lost and be something different. She doesn’t need love, but she wants others to know that she still exists.

Nat Wolff doesn’t exist as a hero as we understand. Margo isn’t there to teach him anything, so much as she allows him to visit into her life when it’s needed. When the duo split as children, it’s over the sudden realization of what death will mean to them both some day. Margo’s parents lock their car keys in a safe and buy a dog to scare Margo into submission. All the while, Nat Wolff’s Quentin longs to be part of her world.

Quentin is a hero in the sense that he gets to undertake a journey that forces him to find his identity. Margo doesn’t teach him, guide him or define what life means. She’s doing her own thing and wondering when Quentin will realize that he needs to leave. That’s quite progressive for this day and age. A woman telling a man that he’s being a bother and not being a defining point for his or her existence.

No one will ever be sure what came of Margo and that’s for the best. Margo expresses her desire for the film, as the need to become lost in isolation to define existence for herself. Bouncing between finding the dead body as a kid and trying to elude her childhood friend Quentin, Margo shows a rather young audience the power of ambivalence. It’s not a bad thing to be self-focused. You just have to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Release Date: OUT NOW!

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