Thursday, August 13, 2009
"Paper Heart" (now playing at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters) is a film unlike most anything else you’ll see this year -- or from any other year for that matter. It’s part documentary, part romantic comedy, part performance piece, and part puppet show (seriously). However -- perhaps because it manages to integrate all these pieces so naturally and wonderfully -- it also has more charm and yes, heart, than most other films you’ll see this year.
The film stars actress Charlyne Yi, a stand-up comic/actress who had a minor but memorable role in Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up." This time, however, Yi is moved up to center stage, bringing with her all the quirkiness of her goofy, awkward charm. The film follows Charlyne as she begs the question, "Is there such a thing as true love?" Something she’s certain she doesn’t believe in. To prove this, she teams up with filmmaker Nicholas Jasenovec (played by Jake M. Johnson; however the real Jasenovec is the actual director of this film, just to make things clear for you) and travels around interviewing people of all shapes and sizes about their thoughts and experiences concerning love, ranging from her celebrity friends like Seth Rogen and Dimitri Martin to a pair of high school sweethearts well in their twilight years living in rural America. It is on this journey that Charlyne comes across a kindred spirit in actor Michael Cera (playing himself), a friend of Jasenovec’s, only to see a full-blown relationship start to form out of it. This new development not only runs into conflict with Charlyne’s set attitude towards love, but also becomes shamelessly entangled with the film she’s making as the film crew starts to follow the couple every time they go out, putting strain on their relationship and causing Charlyne to risk losing someone she may have actually found true happiness with.
Of course many audience members will become confused upon watching the film as to what amount of the film is fact and what is fiction. Certainly, the actors are all playing variations of themselves (minus Johnson, who actually is playing someone other than himself), with Cera and Yi in a way reenacting the beginnings and various other components of their real life relationship. The thing is, I just don’t quite care that much about being confused. Sure, for the beginning of the film, I was asking myself similar questions but as it continued, I found myself swept up in what was happening on screen and began to forget all the complications of scripted vs. non-scripted and just found the joy in this wonderful little universe the filmmakers had created. Yi is an incredibly endearing, creative, and funny personality that you just can’t not like, and I seriously hope she goes on to get more substantial work like this in her future. Overall, the film just manages to hold its ground exceptionally well, balancing the main love story between Cera and Yi (who broke up just before this film was released, putting a bit of a damper on this fairy tale of a story) with the humorous and touching anecdotes of real life couples, as told with the assistance of some truly wonderful “puppet”-ized versions of said stories. I would just recommend viewers shut off their ever-wandering mind to the questions of “Is that real?” or “Is this staged?” and simply allow themselves to be swept up in this wonderful modern examination of true love that’s not afraid to let itself have a happy ending of its own.
"Paper Heart" is rated PG-13 for some language.
--Michael Shymon just graduated from The Bishop's School. He has had an avid passion for film since he was about 5. He enjoys acting, writing, watching movies, as well as making his own films. He will be attending NYU Tisch Film School next year and hopes that all this movie watching will one day pay off.