By John M. Urbancich
“Paper Heart” is simply too small a film to ever to be great, but an imaginative premise and quirky actress/creator could turn it into a late-summer box-office surprise. Charlyne Yi, a comic performance artist who briefly appeared in “Knocked Up,” plays herself as someone trying to document the presence of true love since she doesn’t believe it really exists.
So she goes on a lengthy moviemaking road trip with her co-writer/director (Nick Jasenovec, as played intentionally oily – I think – by Jake Johnson). Among a few entertaining stories, Yi hears how a sudden vision of his ex-wife saved a Nashville man from drowning; goofs around with bikers enjoying each other’s company in an Oklahoma City bar; and finds a gay couple in New York easily comfortable in explaining their relationship
Certainly, such a “mockumentary” would play more believably if Yi gave herself a few more years than the 23 she has under her belt to find the “lightning bolt” romance she seeks. Still, her interviews with most of the Janes and Joes she encounters do offer some charming moments. So do various contributions from Texas biology professors, cute little kids on an Atlanta playground, and alleged ministers in Las Vegas wedding chapels.
Cameo comments from Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, and comic Demitri Martin (pivotal player in Ang Lee’s upcoming “Taking Woodstock”) even bring some limited star power to the proceedings.
Somewhere in the midst of it all, however, our diorama-designing darling supposedly “meets” actor Michael Cera, another Judd Apatow disciple, who also plays himself and gets involved with Yi in a puppy love-like infatuation that quickly runs its course. (She and Cera co-wrote the film’s occasionally infectious score, too.)
Is their magnetism real? Is it fake? Or, is such silliness the film’s biggest mistake? Perhaps, but the real Jasenovec’s indecision on knowing how and when to end it credibly doesn’t help, either.
Yi’s energy, so strong (with good friend Martin) in a musical-concert performance after her film screened at June’s Los Angeles Film Festival, runs out of juice by then, anyway. Maybe someday her kooky, “I just wanna be one of the dudes” persona actually can carry a 90-minute movie right to the bittersweet end – and, preferably, without her pushy puppets and doily dolls.
Stars: Charlyne Yi, Jake Johnson, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, Demitri Martin
Director: Nicholas Jasenovec
Studio/Official Site: http://www.paperheart-movie.com/
Photos courtesy Overture Films.
[John M. Urbancich has been reviewing movies and writing film features and celebrity profiles at Cleveland’s Sun Newspapers for 25 years. As a longtime member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, his work has been appearing on the Sun News website for more than a decade. ]