Paper Heart starring Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera wreaks of indie irony. I watched it with my son and we agree--take When Harry Met Sally, add a bit of Spinal Tap without really tapping too far into audacity, and mix in a dash of Juno's occasional cuteness you probably would end up with Paper Heart. (And we didn't say that just because Michael Cera is in both this movie and Juno but the obvious parallel is there.)
The stars shine in their roles. Charlyne Yi's attempt to understand love and to determine whether she can experience love doesn't come off as much of an emotional stretch for her. Either she is this sort of quirky, clueless girl who is trying to be edgy rather than adorable or she is a brilliant actress. Michael Cera plays what I am beginning to think is who he is in real life--a sort of clumsy and equally clueless guy who is sweet, the sort of boy you wish your daughter would bring home but, if she did, would never have sex with her which is probably why you would want him to be there in the first place. Cera plays this character so perfectly--from Juno (Single-Disc Edition) to Superbad (Unrated Widescreen Edition) to now this mockumentary--that one can't completely fault him for milking it while he can. His voice may never deepen but one can assume he will eventually look older unless he's somehow genetically linked with Dick Clark or Rick Dees or whomever else you can think of who never seemed to age. Jake Johnson is effective as the director, sort of going along with the idea of observing his friend's exploration of love but then shifting into something a little less forgiving. The ending is predictable, a thumb of the nose at the typical Hollywood manipulated ending. Is this a chick flick? Probably. It has some cloyingly cute moments and Charlyne Yi certainly helps to make the cute somehow less annoying than it might have been in other hands. It would make a good date movie, not something you would have to see again and again nor a movie that will become frequently quoted by couples seeking inside jokes to further bond over memories. The closest the movie comes to providing memorable moments are when the couples share their real stories which are occasionally "acted out" in quirky/adorable/look-how-oh-so-indie-we-are puppetry. And if it weren't cute and effective it would be annoying but it all works. I liked it. I didn't love it. And given that I typically loathe chick flicks the fact that I didn't hate it probably means that more people will find it absolutely delightful and a must see movie. The movie works because it doesn't try to be more than what it is, is well cast, and is ultimately inoffensive. Like I said, a good date movie but not a movie that will get under your skin or into your heart. The extras on the dvd don't exactly add anything extra to the movie. The deleted scenes should have been left out so kudos to the actual director, Nicholas Jasenovec, and not the actor, Jake Johnson, acting out his role. The "Making of Paper Heart" feature reinforces the blurry lines the writers have created in making this movie--adding scripted parts to the actual documentary interviews, down to the confusion they sometimes experienced in their own interactions during and after filming. A nice behind-the-scenes look but the film student or screenwriter hoping to get some profound insight won't find anything of any real depth even here. But this reinforces that this film is not trying to be something big and maybe sometimes something small is good enough. The above review has been read and approved by my son. So I guess in some ways this is a two-for-one review.