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Mary Elizabeth Ellis
Charlyne Yi embarks on a quest across America to make a documentary about the one subject she doesn't fully understand: Love. Michael Cera becomes the object of her affection. Weaving together reality and fantasy, Paper Heart combines elements of documentary and traditional storytelling to get at modern romance. Written by
Predictable and somewhat flawed, but still enjoyable
Let me start off by saying, "I don't like Michael Cera." Awkward. Quiet. Almost prepubescent. He's displayed the same characteristics in every role. It's exhausting! That being said, Paper Heart wasn't a film I was too hyped about seeing. But the premise is what got me. Faux-documentary starring musician/comedian Charlyne Yi as herself questioning, "Does true love exist?" Along the way, Yi meets with that loathsome robot of an actor Michael Cera, also playing himself. Their meeting and continuing friendship and eventual relationship becomes a center point for the documentary as the filmmaker Nicholas Jasenovec, not being played by himself but by actor Jake Johnson, tries to find out if Charlyne is finding true love.
Now, already knowing that I am a Michael Cera hater, you would think that I would have instantly written off the film the moment he appears on screen. Well. You'd be mistaken. We're shown a more toned down awkwardness of Michael Cera. He's more laid back and actually kind of suave, in his own weird Michael Cera way. It was actually... refreshing! The relationship between Charlyne and Michael actually seems genuine. They exhibit a great amount of chemistry. Their evolution from acquaintances to friends to boyfriend/girlfriend is believable, which naturally benefits the film.
Charlyne Yi also has nice chemistry with the strangers she encounters and questions about the matters of the heart. The interviewees tell charming and convincing stories that do come off as real, unscripted moments. Overall, Yi shines through in every scene. She's natural. Funny. Cute. Bubbling with enthusiasm.
By now, all movie-goers are familiar with the quirky, romantic comedy and the mockumentary. And Paper Heart does fall prey to an all-too-familiar style. The evolution of the characters is predictable. It progresses just like a normal romantic comedy would. (Not going to spoil the ending.) The "documentary" crew must have contained at least 3 or 4 camera operators. All the angles are covered. Edits between cameras are done with nearly precise accuracy. Normally, I would smile graciously upon such precision. But it doesn't quite work for Paper Heart. The film comes across more like a narrative film than a documentary, which you wouldn't think director Jasenovec would be going for. It sort of clashes a bit with the delightful chemistry between the actors in many cases and makes their performances seem more contrived than real.
Still, Paper Heart is a cute and enjoyable film. Michael Cera is a SURPRISINGLY good character and Charlyne Yi is as cute as a button. Predictable? Yes. Sappy? Yes. But still enjoyable. It's got heart. A heart stronger than the title might suggest. Paper Heart will be enjoyable for its target audience and may even be a good movie for adult couples to see. Love is a game of risk taking and can't be explained by anybody. Just take a chance. And if you liked Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (I did not) or Juno (One great of '08) or just want to enjoy a cute little love story then take a chance on Paper Heart.
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