Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thin as Paper, Lacking in Heart

Paper Heart

Release: 08.07.09 limited
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 28 minutes

A Netflix Night

Musician-comedienne Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up) has never been in love and believes she never will. She finds the whole romantic concept suspect. With her friend and director Nicholas Jasenovec (Jake M. Johnson, Redbelt), she travels the United States to film a documentary on people's perspectives on love. Along the way, Charlyne meets Michael Cera (Superbad) and the camera crews roll with fingers crossed that Charlyne may understand the elusive emotion.

Back in 1984, a young Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer made the highly entertaining mockumentary This is Spinal Tap under the direction of Rob Reiner. Guest has since had repeated success mixing comedy and documentary. In 2006, Scott Glosserman proved horror could work in the mockumentary style when he crafted Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It's frustrating to watch Paper Heart attempt and fail to effectively combine romance and the mockumentary.

During her cross-country tour, Charlyne asks people young and old about their experiences and expectations of love. Their anecdotes and the paper mache reenactments provided by Charlyne and her father Luciano are interesting and entertaining. However, as the relationship between Charlyne and Michael develops, the focus blurs. The tag line reads, "a story about love that takes on a life of its own." This begs the question, why does their burgeoning romance feel so forced? The sincerity of the interviews devolves into scenes equal in quality to a poorly staged reality show.

Being a movie and not a documentary, obviously the scenes are going to be staged. If it were truly attempting realism, the director would have appeared as himself instead of hiring an actor to portray him. Paper Heart felt most real during Charlyne's playground excursion. Let's face it; it's hard to keep kids on task so that's the closest to pure, unscripted fun they achieved. My preference would have been to see the romantic elements intertwined with these authentic interactions. Instead, Paper Heart's creators seemed to make it up as they went, forgetting they needed to keep their passengers entertained.

Dirty Undies
If you have a chipmunk fetish, Charlyne's puffy cheeks are adorable. Though if you're like my wife, you'll wish she'd do her hair, wear a different hoodie, or just maintain some general minimum of hygiene. If you're looking to discover love, who better to be your beau than universally likable Michael Cera? In fact, Charlyne and Michael were an item up until the release of Paper Heart. Despite their real-life coupling, their onscreen chemistry feels less than authentic.

The Money Shot
Occasionally funny, somewhat goofy, but disappointingly dull. This flick's three elements--interviews, re-enactments and scripted love story-- mix about as easily as oil, water and a hard-boiled egg.

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  1. Exactamundo. Pick a genre; if you're gonna be a mockumentary, be a mockumentary. Don't interweave some real-life romance (that may or may not be partly staged/re-staged for the film), and don't get an actor to play the director. Weird. Loved her arts and crafts segues - they were probably the best part of the flick.

  2. I figure this was an infomercial to sell the myriad of talents possessed by Charlyne Yi so she could be the next big funny. I hope this didn't backfire too much. I think she'd be fun to see in some other type of film.