Paper Towns and Heaven Knows What

Unless you have a hidden desire to be bored to death, I would strong advise you to avoid both of these films.

July, 2015, shall be remembered in Indiana as the month of record rain and lousy films. Sure, we were saved last week by the release of two tremendous films, Testament of Youth and Mr. Holmes, and two others that were enjoyable despite weaknesses, Trainwreck and Ant-Man. However, at the end of the month we have once again returned to the Island of Lost Cinematic Souls.

Since the two most publicized releases, Southpaw and Pixels, seemed borderline awful, I made the mistake of going to see both Paper Towns and Heaven Knows What. Both were mind numbingly wretched, and I broke precedent by leaving Paper Towns halfway through the film for the first time in my movie life. I really should end this review on that note.

Paper TownsRegardless, let me simply say that Paper Towns is an abysmal film. The plot is as foolish as it is insane, and there is not one moment that comes close to making any sense of any kind.

I could give away the placid plot, but I don’t know if there is any meaningful way to describe it. A high school senior, long infatuated with a beautiful girl living across the street, is mesmerized when she suddenly disappears. With her parents largely tired of her antics, he discovers that she has left ludicrous clues at various locations. Broken down to its basics, this film is little more than a teenage version of the same device employed in last year’s over-rated Gone Girl.

In the process, these wholesome kids engage in various acts of house burglary and other minor crimes as if they are on a Boy Scout snipe hunt. I really tried to stick this film out, but I couldn’t resist the feeling that Roger Ebert was whispering in my ear, “Get the hell out of here!”

While I must admit that the film based upon John Green’s first book, The Fault of Our Stars, was a surprisingly entertaining movie, this pathetic effort seems to suggest that he may have been a one-hit wonder. We’ll see.

Heaven Knows WhatAnd then there is Heaven Knows What, an independent film that is as ludicrous as Paper Towns for different reasons. It is a story about young New York heroin users and their sad, daily lives, and I suspect that it would drive drug abusers off this substance if it was simply shown at rehab centers.

I only saw this film because I am representing a heroin addict who comes from a well-to-do family, and the subject intrigued me. However, here we have a couple of young people who spend their entire time shooting up heroin while begging for money on the city streets. The film robs you of any sympathy for these lost souls, and the movie leaves you feeling like you are boiling in a pot of oil.

Let me betray one of the moments that is supposed to give the film significance. Harley, a wasted young girl played by Arielle Holmes, is in love with Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), and he is an arrogant slob who simply encourages her to slit her wrists and kill herself. Having attempted to do so, Ilya temporarily rallies to her side, only to again dismiss her when she recovers.

There is nothing remotely uplifting about this film, and the basis of any praise from a critics escapes me. Quite frankly, I was also attracted to this film based on the use of “heaven” in its title. There have been a number of interesting films over the years employing that word, none better than Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) and the two releases of Heaven Can Wait (1943 and 1978). The Mr. Allison movie refers to a platonic relationship between a Marine and a Catholic nun who were separately shipwrecked and abandoned on a Pacific Island in World War II. It stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr with direction from John Huston. It is a great film.

As to the two Heaven Can Wait films, the first was released in the 1940’s and stars Gene Tierney and Don Ameche. While it is an interesting comedy, it’s not as good as the later one starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Beatty plays an NFL quarterback yanked from his body by a mistaken angel following an accident, and he is allowed to return to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. It sounds idiotic, but both Beatty and Christie make it work.

However, the only positive thing I can say about Heaven Knows What is that it gave me the impetus to flee the boredom of Paper Towns. Quite honestly, I started to fear that I would impersonate Harley’s decision to slit her wrists, and I had to seek daylight for protection.