‘Paper Heart’ Blends Truth, Fiction (****)

Sunday, August 9, 2009
By Kevin Crossman

As with Borat and Bruno, Paper Heart uses the documentary format to blend scripted/acted scenes along with true documentary footage. The topic of true love is the subject of the film that stars co-writer Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up) as herself (or, a version of herself…). Yi claims she has no idea what true love is, so she goes on a road-trip with a documentary crew to interview people to learn more about the subject. Along the way, Yi begins dating Michael Cera (playing himself) and the focus of the film turns inward as the crew begins to stress out the young couple.

Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi in Paper Heart

Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi in Paper Heart

Director Nicholas Jasenovec blends the interviews with real people along with the scripted moments well and is played in the film by actor Jake Johnson. The invasive nature of documentary crews is shown in more effective and obvious ways than your average mockumentary, such as an episode of The Office (for an example not used in the film, check the video with Jack Black). And Cera’s halting persona is perfect for the uncomfortable nature of his storyline. Yi too displays stress well, an effective transition from the film’s early scenes were Yi’s “cute elfin” persona is played for laughs.  Johnson is also effective as the intergecting director with just enough of both sympathy and ambition to set off the tension between the crew and the couple.

Several of the interview subjects tell lengthy stories about how they met and fell in love. Rather than focus solely on the people, the filmmakers turn not to old photographs but a series of paper sets and puppets to visualize the action. These unique vingettes are unlike anything seen on film in recent memory and while they match the film’s DIY aesthetic they do bring some color and energy to a film that needs it. These stories will touch your heart and the editing of the narration and the puppet sets do add value to these scenes.

Yi’s backstory is told with interviews with her real-life parents, childhood footage, and interviews with fellow comedians including Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, David Krumholtz, and Rob Huebel. And fans of Cera will enjoy a vertiable rainbow of hooded sweatshirts throughout the film.

There is a dramatic conclusion to Paper Heart that bravely leaves things with some degree of ambiguity. The film played at Sundance earlier this year but a new, more mainstream, set piece has been added to the film for it’s current theatrical run. While the premise and execution of the film are well-done, ultimately the reception lies in audience reaction to Yi. As either the primary or secondary focus of nearly every scene in the movie, Yi’s giggling and manic style may not be for everyone. If you love Yi, this film will warm your heart. If you don’t, well… it won’t.


2 Responses to “‘Paper Heart’ Blends Truth, Fiction (****)”

  1. Guy who posts his opinion on the internet

    Despite Yi’s awesome friends showing up, this movie is not good. Her giggling is okay for a minute or two, but awful for an hour and a half.

  2. “And fans of Cera will enjoy a vertiable rainbow of hooded sweatshirts throughout the film.”


    Definitely wanna catch this flick. I have a feeling I’d like it.


Leave a Reply