Love is one of the most difficult human emotions to understand. It’s been examined in every possible way through every potential medium over and over again for centuries. In director Nicholas Jasenovec‘s movie Paper Heart, the idea of love is examined through a different, and somewhat unexpected, lens.
The “story” begins with young comedian/musician Charlyne Yi (playing herself) discussing the ideas of love and the fact that she is convinced that she will never find it. Charlyne teams up with friend and director Nicholas Jasenovec (played by Jake Johnson) to travel across the country searching for answers about the meaning of love. Throughout her journey, Charlyne interviews a fun and diverse collection of people about their personal experiences and beliefs on love. On the way, Charlyne meets Michael Cera (playing himself), with whom she starts to build an unexpected (and absolutely darling) romantic relationship. The focus of the film flips from an examination of love to the odd, whimsical fairy-tale romance of Charlyne and Michael.
Paper Heart is not what I expected. From much of material I had seen on the movie, I had expected it to be a traditional documentary, but was thrown for an unexpected loop when it began morphing into something else completely. After studying information about the documentary online (and wondering why it felt so scripted at moments), I discovered that Paper Heart wasn’t really a documentary — it was more like a mockumentary, parodying itself halfway through. Or, as the director described it, the format behind Paper Heart is a “hybrid documentary” that combines elements of non-fiction with fiction in order to explore a topic, tell a story, and, ultimately, make a point.
While the concept of Paper Heart is hardly original — skeptical character learns that they are wrong about love — the presentation of the topic is whimsical and silly enough that it feels fairly fresh and keeps the audience interested through the film’s modest run time of just under and hour and a half.
Some of the bonus features included are an uncut version of the film, a short making-of feature, a live musical performance by Charlyne Yi, the music video of "Heaven" by Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera, a selection of love interviews, and deleted scenes. However, Paper Heart only has Spanish subtitles available and no alternative language track.
Paper Heart is perfect for fans of awkward moments in films, whimsical comedy, indie films, and films more in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno. However, other viewers may have some trouble with understanding the “hybrid” concept of the film because the fiction is so seamlessly integrated with the non-fiction, may find the film somewhat incomplete without a definitive ending, and may not find the style of humor here very appealing.
Overall I found Paper Heart to be incredibly cute and surprising, but I can see that certain audiences (like my film major, indie movie-loving former roommate) would love the movie while others (like my trendy, mainstream movie-fan sister) may have trouble getting into it.