DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS JASENOVEC
STARRING: CHARLYNE YI, MICHAEL CERA, JAKE JOHNSON with DAVID KRUMHOLTZ, PAUL SCHEER, PAUL RUST, MARTIN STARR, DEMETRI MARTIN and SETH ROGEN
‘Paper Heart’ capitalizes on an existent rumour. Its lead actors were supposed to have dated at a point in their life and the film plays along with that notion, trying to rationalize the idea while simultaneously attempting to outrun it. Somehow, you know what to expect. The film unfolds in the perspective of Charlyne Yi as she attempts to vindicate and empower herself, walking around and interviewing people, bringing together this database of individual viewpoints. A consensus could have been her intention, but the film looks beyond – it’s more about the myriad revelations in an overall indifference on Yi’s part. In which way, the film serves as a metaphor for what it carries; it looks to inspire those emotions in the viewer which Yi wouldn’t and doesn’t fall for. It’s chauvinist, and in that it tries too hard.
Charlyne Yi (as a ‘fictionalized’ version of herself) does not understand ‘love’. Neither does she want to. She says she’s ‘content’ when asked, reminiscent of those school kids who don’t touch others’ food because they’ve got enough of their own that they trust better. She has a tinge of that haughtiness which she veils underneath a pair of thick-shelled glasses and an ever-enduring smile. She looks like one as well. Her interviews reflect upon her adamancy; it’s like ‘truth or dare’ where she’s up for both. Every perspective she gains an insight to is like the blow of a boxing coach who tries to penetrate his champion’s abdomen as the latter tries hard to resist in a self-inflicted susceptibility test. The film’s director is personified in Jake Johnson (who plays ‘Nick’) as the friend who tries to set her up with an up-and-coming love interest in Michael Cera (as a ‘fictionalized’ version of himself). Nick directs the documentary in the documentary, throwing nudges where he can only to learn his protégé has progressed further than he thinks she has. This is what they call a ‘mockumentary’.
The three of them are expressionless – they drone than talk. For Michael Cera, that’s his comfort zone; Jake Johnson snuggles in as well. Charlyne is loony, perhaps she tries to cover for her friends. What is disheartening is that these are vain efforts that suffer from a distinctive lack of heart. The documentary portions look enacted, the pauses seem forced to such extents that I felt elated whenever an interviewee managed shifty glances towards the camera. It looks like they’ve been done twice – once without recording, and the second with – including edits and rehearsals. The film deprives us of an organic feel, it looks like a second-time watch the first time around. Maybe that’s the idea behind a self-parody, but what’s the point, then?
This is the second film with Michael Cera that tries distinctively to emulate ‘Before Sunrise’. And while ‘Paper Heart’ packs a fair amount of poise and better direction than ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’, it has neither the charm nor the intricate detail in character and premise that Richard Linklater effortlessly packed into an overnight experience, of two people stringent to savour their drifts through limited time. Still, it does have the freshness of a ‘road movie’ hidden under a shroud of urban apathy to celebrity extents. It also serves its purpose as a response to the said allegations of the two of them as a couple, the film in itself being representative of the voyeurism that its stars have been subjected to. I hated its climax, though, with all its quirks – something in cheeky accordance to a feminist outlook adopted from first shot.
Nevertheless, ‘Paper Heart’ has a bunch of deeply romantic stories to offer that are well-sequenced as well. Except that it has its intonation going awry, which makes it look like a cynic’s take on romanticism as she tries to hide some of her own. But they’re only having a laugh about the whole thing, which makes it… I don’t know, irksome?