Details: (M), 88 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: Charlyne Yi does not believe in love. Or so she says. Well, at the very least, she doesnt 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. 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?Then, shortly after filming begins, Charlyne meets a boy after her own heart: Michael Cera. 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.
Recycled ‘Paper’ only A2, not A4.
Best described as a rom-com version of The Blair Witch Project, this low-budget vehicle for cutie-pie comedian Charlyne Yi is a one-note, gimmicky stunt. Though it’s not without its surface charms, the film lacks warmth when it needs it most, and the ‘is-it-real-or-fake?’ conceit plays far too ‘fake’ when it needs to be ‘real’. That it surfaces at a single Sydney cinema within walking distance of the university crowd says a lot – Paper Heart looks cool and fresh, so Gen Y will be intrigued, but word-of-mouth won’t be kind.
We are led to believe that the film-within-a-film is inspired by Yi’s own barren love life. Playing herself, she sets off to define true love with director friend Nick Jasenovec in tow (Jake M. Johnson plays Nick Jasenovec in front of the camera whilst the real Nick Jasenovec stays behind it). On her travels, she shoots the breeze with: a pool-playing middle-age divorcee who pines for an unrequited love; a basketball court full of smart mouth under-10s who all have different interpretations of love; the traditional ‘happily-married couple’; and so on.
Jasenovec (both of them) accompanies these vignettes with paper-puppet illustrations of the stories they tell. These sort-of cute, sort-of irrelevant moments are the work of Yi, whose multimedia talents extend to origami and cellophane-paper landscaping (who knew?).
Yi and her film crew seek the star-power philosophising from the likes of Seth Rogen, Taking Woodstock’s Dimitri Martin and Freaks & Geeks nerd Martin Starr, and attend an LA party where she is caught stumbling through a first meeting with Juno leading man Michael Cera. From this ‘utter coincidence’, a fledgling relationship develops and Yi is torn between pursuing her first real love (who also happens to be a very bankable new-Hollywood name) and her commitment to the documentary she initiated. She must ask herself “Is it still a worth shooting a ‘search-for-love’ film if, in the course of shooting it, she finds love?”
From this point on, it is all too obvious that you are being conned. Nobody involved in Paper Heart (including the instantly-likable, usually-reliable Michael Cera) has enough skill to make the parts that are meant to be true declarations of love synch with the parts that are meant to romantic-movie malarkey. Ultimately, one doubts that even the parts that seemed real are real, and the entire house-of-cards comes tumbling down.
Charlyne Yi is an undeniably-sweet screen presence and will probably find her place as a Janeane Garofalo-type support-player scene-stealer (she’s done it once already - as the stoned girlfriend in a single scene in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up – and she was a hoot). But she has overplayed her hand with Paper Heart. Positioning herself front-and-centre of this film makes it seem like a vanity project, a cynical cry of “Notice me!” from a niche performer. Which I’m sure it isn’t....
There are some cute laughs to be had early on, but Paper Heart grows tiresome very quickly. Never amounting to more than a calling-card film for its leading lady, it’s an interesting idea that fails in its execution.
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