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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
This movie is very much like Charlene Yi. It pretends to be something it's not, and doesn't quite succeed enough on any level. Is it a documentary? No. Is it a scripted movie? Much more so than it pretends not to be.
By blending predictable, scripted and entirely acted romantic comedy elements in with what "appears" to be more standard documentary-style interviews, the viewer is left to wonder if anything they are seeing is real, and once that foundation of belief is cracked, the entire movie loses legitimacy. It's not good enough to be a documentary; it's not good enough to be a romantic comedy. Two negatives do not equal a positive.
The movie borders on a saccharine-styled Blair Witch Project with better production values. Li further carries this deception into the real world, denying that she's dating Michael Cera, but then noting in other places that their relationship ended in 2009, conveniently as the movie is released. She also tried to create fiction around her age, pretending to be ten years or more older than Cera, even though she looks she could sit in a high school geometry class. This leaves us to wonder, Why? The deception adds nothing to the movie plot, it's not a cutting-edge move, it's really nothing more than an annoyance.
From the acting side, Li's cutesy nerd style plays well at the start, but wears thin as the movie progresses. Cera is normally a solid actor, but interesting his scenes are the ones where it's most obvious the movie has drifted from faux documentary to a clearly acted and scripted production. It's a bit unsettling.
It's not unwatchable, there's even one or two points where it's almost charming, but many viewers are going to walk away feeling a bit flat, and a bit played.
You don't need to dive to find the remote to turn this movie off it it happens to show up for free on your TV. Yet you're not missing anything if you make it through your earthly existence without seeing Paper Heart. It's mildly entertaining, but just as easily could have been produced by a second-year NYU film student.
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