Sundance 2009 Review: Charlyne Yi's Paper Heart
by Alex Billington
January 26, 2009
There are always a handful of films at Sundance that I go into with low expectations and walk out of loving. Paper Heart was one of them. By the time I had heard about its mockumentary style, I had pretty much lost all interest. But what I discovered in the end was an original, entertaining, and above all, very charming film about discovering love. But I've got some problems with it, especially its conclusion. As for quirky romantic comedies though, if I can even call this one, Paper Heart is one of the better films from Sundance this year with that label. And if you're a fan of Michael Cera or Charlyne Yi, it's certainly worth checking out.
Paper Heart is a fake documentary, meaning it's shot and told in the documentary style, but was actually scripted and performed. Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera do play themselves, though, and it's primarily about them. Yi is a comedian who, per the prodding of a filmmaker friend, decides to explore the idea of whether love really exists (and if she can ever find it). She has never believed in it, so she sets off with her filmmaker friend (played by Jake Johnson) to travel around the US conducting interviews with couples. Along the way she meets Michael Cera and starts up a relationship with him. But is it love or just a friendship?
That's the question that the film tries to answer over a series of often amusing interviews in combination with the comedic antics of Charlyne Yi. For those who are not particularly used to her personality or style of comedy, it takes a little while to get used to, but once you're well into the film, you'll be laughing wildly and grinning as the real story within unfolds. Part of what makes it so fun to watch is that Yi and Cera have a natural chemistry (they're actually a couple in real life) and they don't want the cameras to follow them, because they want to be a couple on their own, with some privacy. But Johnson knows that this is the "good stuff" and demands they keep following them just in case "something" happens.
As for that conclusion that didn't sit well with me, without spoiling too much, the film just sort of ends abruptly, without giving us an answer to that aforementioned question, or even any question at all. I do realize that the ending is left open for personal interpretation, but I feel like the most common explanation I've heard only makes me more frustrated. It's as if they planned all along to trick the audience. We were never getting any answer, so why not just have fun, finish it in a different way than everyone was expecting, and allow for open interpretation. Unfortunately, that left me much more aggravated than satisfied.
Although the ending was a bit frustrating, I still thoroughly enjoyed Paper Heart. I don't expect it to become the next Juno or anything like that, but it's still a great romantic comedy (of sorts). While it doesn't uncover anything new about what love is, it does take us on a joy ride through the whims of affection.
Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 8 Comments
how old is Charlyne Yi? ?I doubt she is in her 30's.
frank on Jan 26, 2009
michael cera - the king of teen rom com?
Allen Sharpe on Jan 26, 2009
Charlyne is in her early 20's.
Lala on Jan 26, 2009
She's 33 years old.. the hell you smoking..
nem on Jan 26, 2009
I dont know too much of Charlyne Yi (she didnt add anything to Knocked Up), plus im getting burnt out on Cera, and finally, fake documentarys are lame and proof you cant make/tell a genuine movie/story (fuck you, Guest, get a real job).
Voice Of Reason on Jan 27, 2009
@5 Not sure what makes you think that the concept of mockumentary is inherantly weak, or a cop out. Its actually IMO harder to not make it lame. As the format is like a stone weight dragging you down that you have to dance around to make it work.
Hand Knotted Rugs on Feb 27, 2009
It did answer the question though in the end...in a way. basically (i don't believe this is a spoiler...) that it's worth the risk! you have to risk being hurt. 🙂 that seems like a good conclusion for the question of love to me!! i highly recommend the film. very endearing and fresh.
lila jones on Dec 3, 2009
I, unfortunately, had to endure this movie and thought it was agonizing all the way through. Charlyn Yi is a cross between a cabbage patch doll,troll, and an old chinese man (just imagine the top of her head shaved). Her voice sounded like a whiny pre pubescent teenage girl, add singing to that and it's like a hipsters wet dream. OH, and what about the animation? Whoever did that should be shot, multiple times... I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS MOVIE IF YOU APPRECIATE DRUNK INSULTING OBSCENE COMMENTARY WITH FRIENDS.
bobo on Jan 9, 2010
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