Saturday, December 12, 2009

Movie Log: Paper Heart

Paper Heart presents itself as a documentary -- as the true story of young actress/comedian Charlyne Yi examining the concept of true love, and her own belief that love doesn't really exist -- but it is actually a fiction, constructed by Yi and Nicholas Jasenovec (who, in a neat bit of metafiction, is also the director, but is played as the director of the documentary that Paper Heart pretends to be, by Jake M. Johnson).

So there are wheels within wheels here, and I'm not sure it's entirely kosher to pretend to be a documentary for fictional purposes. The heart of the movie is Yi's relationship with Michael Cera, who is playing himself and pretending not to be playing at all. Their courtship is as Michael Cera-ish as any viewer could expect, with Yi even more tentative and awkward than Cera himself, as unlikely as that may seem. (They both seem to be entirely devoid of the hormones that, in most people their age, are what drives people towards each other in the first place.)

So some of the scenes in Paper Heart are Yi interviewing various people about love, from long-wed couples to schoolkids -- and, of course, finding out that all of them, most especially the schoolchildren, are wiser and more thoughtful and serious than she is.

And then the rest of the scenes are of Yi and Johnson-as-Jasenovec, talking about making the movie, and pretending to be behind the scenes, with and without Cera, as the boyfriend who hasn't figured out why a boy might be interested in girls, anyway. (To forestall the inevitable comeback: Cera's characters, particularly the distilled essence of Cera he plays in this movie, are even less interested in boys, if that is mathematically possible.)

As usual, the audience cuts a documentary extra slack, because it's real -- but this is a "documentary," and not real...or not entirely real. As a complete fiction, it's quite plotless and erratically structured. As a complete documentary, it has a number of touching moments and thoughtful passages -- though most of those do come from the people Yi interviews, and not her interactions with the Platonic Michael Cera. So Paper Hearts isn't a failure, precisely, but it's not quite successful as whatever it's actually trying to do. And it will probably frustrate a large percentage of the people watching it.
Listening to: The Octopus Project - An Evening with Rthrtha
via FoxyTunes

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