Review: Paper Heart (2009)

Directed by: Nicholas Jasenovec
Starring: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake Johnson

Aspiring actress and comedienne Charlyne Yi doesn’t believe in love. In an attempt to change her perspective, Yi and friend/director Nick Jasenovec decide to travel cross-country to gather insight on the topic by interviewing various individuals. Soon enough, the female naysayer becomes acquainted with fellow actor Michael Cera; an encounter that eventually leads to an uneasy courtship between the two. As their relationship continues however, it inevitably begins to serve as a vehicle to aid Charlyne in discovering just what she’s been looking for.

Charlyne Yi isn’t the most likable celebrity, if you’d be so bold as to consider her as such. After watching the first ten minutes or so of Paper Heart, most people would probably share sentiments similar to my own. Fortunately, the film in question redeems itself through its semi-mockumentary approach that, although unsure of itself, aids in providing viewers with some seriously interesting thoughts on the topic that often plagues everyone’s minds: love.

Paper Heart starts out with a pretty impactful bang, more specifically one that stays true to its premise by interviewing various individuals in an attempt to cover all sides of the love spectrum; an approach that works very well. It’s within these interviews that a majority of Paper Heart‘s appeal lies, something that’s unfortunate considering how appealing a hybridization of a documentary and mockumentary truly is. In an attempt to elaborate, I feel it’s safe to say that the film begins to go downhill as soon as the uneasy courtship between Yi and co-star Cera begins. Most times, it’d be easy to appreciate this type of shift in the narrative based on the film’s overall intentions, but as the film nears its cutesy yet ridiculously unsatisfying conclusion, their relationship seems more like a cop-out than a groundbreaking experiment in filmmaking.

In light of its annoyances, Paper Heart does benefit from some respectable acting. Yi, although annoyingly eccentric, does provide us with an endearing portrait of an individual that has yet to comprehend the true meaning of love what it is to experience it. Cera, as always, brings a substantial amount to the table even if he doesn’t have the chance to spread his wings in a sense, but his efforts are admirable and he does prove to be a much-needed departure from the likes of Yi and her demeanor. Co-star Johnson also proves to be a much-needed counterbalance to Yi’s social ineptitude, and without his portrayal of director Jasenovec, it’s safe to say my head would’ve exploded due to quirk overload.

In summary, I really had high hopes for this film. Not only was the concept of combining reality and straight-up fiction a turn on, but the way in which Paper Heart chose to approach the topic at hand had me intrigued from the get-go. Unfortunately, what starts out as promising eventually deteriorates into a somewhat tedious exercise riddled with annoying quirks and a general lack of some much-needed closure. The film’s enjoyable enough though, and like I said, it’s always interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on love in an attempt to truly understand what it is and how one can go about finding it themselves. Just be wary of Yi. You’ve been warned.

Rating: 6/10

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