Cineast offers previews of the new films Paper Towns and Big Significant Things.
Quentin is a stiff, underdeveloped high school senior in a featureless suburb, with a pair of friends who look even less developed, like they should still be in 8th grade. Quentin is bored and boring, but not too stressed out about it—he’s the kind of kid who wouldn’t be mortified to be seen behind the wheel of a minivan. Fellow senior Margo, on the other hand, is an adventuress, unhappy living in what she calls a “paper town,” (whence the title of the film) and furious at her ex-boyfriend for cheating on her. Quentin and Margo come together for one night. Not for underage sex, mind you, but to go on a little crime spree of pranks against Margo’s ex. Margo recruits Quentin into this revenge rampage by sneaking into his bedroom at night like a cat burglar, and at first she seems mainly interested in him for his minivan. After this exhilarating night, however, Margo suddenly vanishes from town—like, the “call the FBI our daughter’s missing” kind of scenario. After this, the plot of Paper Town morphs into a mystery, as Quentin goes in search of Margo, the girl who brought him the most exciting night of his life. Paper Town is another entry in the recent revival of the teen exploitation genre.
Big Significant Things
Everybody knows that men have big problems with commitment, right? That’s at least the way the movies like to tell it. Thinking that he hasn’t seen any big, significant things yet in his young life, commitment-shy Craig Harrison, who is about to move across the country with his girlfriend (commitment alert!!), lies to her in order to take a solo trip across the south. His goal: to see big, significant things—in his case, quite literally, as he navigates the deep south to find such features as the world’s biggest cedar bucket, the world’s biggest rocking chair, the world’s biggest bottle, and the list goes on and on. The film’s premise probably sounded cute on paper. The trouble is, one hot, hick-filled southern town with a giant ball of string is rather like another hot, hick-filled southern town with the world’s largest clarinet. The core idea that a commitment-averse, adventure-seeking man would come to regard a road trip to visit a series of tourist curiosities located in remote rural areas as a mechanism to help him accept the idea of settling down is not convincing. It seems likely that the creators of Big Significant Things hoped that the charming quirkiness of the tourist traps they showcase would rub off on the film. Not so much.