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'Paper Heart' Review: Charlyne Yi's Oddball Semi-sweet Documentary

August 6th, 2009 10:11am EDT favorite Add to My News
Paper Heart"The Power of love is a curious thing. Make a one man weep, make another man sing." - Hugh Anthony Cregg III (Huey Lewis) 1985.

"Paper Heart" is an oddball of a film disguised as a semi-sweet documentary on which nothing can be taken at face value -- though they might want you to -- and that's what's so curious. If Charlyne Yi's goal was to make a type film that no one has ever seen before, she just may have pulled it off. Of course, this isn't always a worthwhile goal: John Lennon wanted to record a song that no one had ever heard before and he came up with "Revolution 9" for The Beatles' White Album. "Revolution 9"is unlistenable -- unless you really enjoy soccer chants and the hypnotic, trance inducing words, "Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine," repeated for, what seems like, twenty minutes -- "Paper Hearts," on the other hand, is quite good. Just don't believe everything you see because, even though it doesn't feel like it, it is still a movie.

The film starts with Charlyne's idea to make a documentary about love; because she feels she is incapable of this emotion. She travels the country with director Nicholas Jasenovec -- who is the director of "Paper Heart" but is played on camera by actor Jake M. Johnson, following along? -- interviewing people that have found love, one way or another, in their lifetime. They're filming at a friend's party in L.A. where Michael Cera (played by Michael Cera) happens to be hanging out -- Cera is/was Charlyne's real life boyfriend (maybe, no one is really sure) -- and immediately takes an interest in Charlyne. Jasenovec (Johnson) is thrilled; this is a documentary about finding love, what's a better way to do that than filming their courtship.

The rest of the film is interlaced with the young budding love of Yi and Cera intertwined with the cross country excursion (that Cera is not a part of) of interviewing people who have found love, lost love or are looking for love. Charlyne Yi has made it clear in interviews that this is a movie, but, yes some of it is real. Unlike the Sacha Baron Cohen films "Borat"and "Bruno," it's not obvious what's staged and what's real. Example: There's a completely absurd scene with a fortune teller -- the admission has been made that every single frame of that scene is real.

Eventually, Cera grows tired of every single moment their time together being filmed. This seams reasonable. But this is The Project so, unfortunately, he has to deal with it. Friction continues to mount until something -- The Project or the status of their relationship -- has to change.

This is a movie, but it plays like a completely on the up-and-up documentary. Moviegoers that have not read anything about the film will assume it is a documentary and, perhaps even, start to question how the filmmakers expect us to believe that actually just happened -- at least until they see the credits that the "director" was "Jake M. Johnson as Nicholas Jasenovec." They're really not trying to fool anyone. (They probably are!) Not any more than any other film (that's what they want us to think!); It's just told in another way (Run!).

Paper Heart

Paper Heart © Universal Pictures

Reports have leaked that Cera and Yi have recently ended their relationship. Cynics would argue it's a publicity stunt for the film or, even, maybe there was never a relationship at all. One thing learned from this film and her media tour is that the real Charlyne Yi is an interesting human study, seemingly sweet and benign, but, in reality, capable of anything for the sake of humor and/or entertainment. It would be wise to keep an eye on her and her career because the line between reality and fiction is going to get a lot blurrier. (Number Nine.)

Grade: B+

Watch "Paper Heart - Exclusive Interview With Nicholas Jasenovec And Charlyne Yi"




Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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