December 5, 2009
Review - " Paper Heart " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Director: Nicholas Jasenovec Director
Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake Johnson
Paper Heart is a "50% documentary" about the nature of
love - inspired, so it's said, by the understated life
crisis of its star Charlybe Yi, an offbeat character actress
and comedian of Judd Apatow rep company fame (she
played the stoner girlfriend in Knocked Up). Apparently she
is unable to come to grips with the Hollywood image
of "true love" and worries she may even be congenitally
unable to feel it.
Charlyne Yi does not believe in love. Or so she says. Well,
at the very least, she doesn’t believe in fairy-tale love or the
Hollywood mythology of love, and her own experiences have
turned her into yet another modern-day skeptic.
Paper Heart follows Charlyne as she embarks on a quest
across America to make a documentary about the one
subject she doesn’t fully understand. Off she goes with a $1-
million crew and production to various locations (Oklahoma
City, Amarillo, Albuquerque) to talk to couples who've been
together for generations, who even work together (a
family court judge and lawyer) for a lot of "Awwww!"
moments. As a change of pace, there's a no-less-cute gay
couple in New York. It's all punctuated by puppet
dramatizations of each love story. Did I mention this is all
relentlessly cute? As she and her good friend (and director)
Nicholas search for answers and advice about love,
Charlyne talks with friends and strangers, scientists, bikers,
romance novelists, and children. They each offer diverse
views on modern romance, as well as various answers to the
age-old question: does true love really exist?
In the midst of filming, in walks Michael Cera while they are filming at a party. Michael takes a liking to Charlyne so they start
spending time together. Before they know it, their relationship becomes part of the documentary. Even though their
relationship is quite fresh and innocent, it’s quite staged. As their relationship develops on camera, her pursuit to discover
the nature of love takes on a fresh new urgency. Charlyne risks losing the person she finds closest to her heart.
The wonderful part of this film is that the love stories are interesting and sweet. The paper mache art that is created to help
describe each couple’s love story adds humor and something aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It's clearly genuine material.
But the mostly-scripted fake stuff - the purported story of Yi's relationship with Cera - is also presented as real, or at least
more real than an episode of Survivor.
Were Cera and Yi ever a real
couple? She says no. Some
friends say yes. The point is,
they are presented as one
here, in a movie where the
guy identified as "Nick the
director" is actually Jake
Johnson, an actor playing
director Nicholas Jasenovec.
We watch them "meet cute"
at a party with background
performers such as Seth
Rogen and Demetri Martin.
We watch their first date and
first kiss -and we watch them
agonize over the intimidating
presence of cameras at these
Yi and Cera could stammer
through Shakespeare and
you'd think they were riffing,
so awkwardly do words pour
out of both of their mouths.
In fact, how much you still like Cera's now-trademark style will have bearing on whether you appreciate Paper
Heart - in much the same way that it's relevant whether you considered the songs in Juno too precious by half
(the songs written by Yi and Cera - including her love ballad 'You Smell Like Christmas' - are very much in the
‘Paper Heart’ was quite a funny and charming movie. In the end, whether they're a real couple or not, Yi and Cera
should have been, since she seems very much a female him.