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Tales From “Watch Instantly”: Paper Heart (2009)

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Paper Heart is a movie that I missed when it came out last year due to the fact that I don’t live anywhere near an independent theater. I was initially skeptical to begin with anyway, being as I’m not the biggest Michael Cera fan in the world and Charlyne Yi annoyed the crap out of me in Knocked Up. However, its unique storytelling style and adorably cute story got me through my prejudices, and I ended up loving the crap out of Paper Heart.

Starring (and co-written by) Charlyne Yi, it is played up as a documentary where Yi (playing herself) travels the United States to ask people about true love. Why would she do this? It’s because she herself has never been in love and does not seem to believe in it. Well, that all changes when she meets Michael Cera (playing himself). After some awkward conversations (do you expect anything else involving Cera?), they begin to date and fall for each other… but unfortunately, they are under scrutiny by the “documentary” director Nicholas Jasenovec (Jake M. Johnson, playing the movie version of the real Jasenovec who directed Paper Heart itself) and it starts to tear away at both a promising romance and the possibility of Yi finally — gasp — falling in love!

Now, while this is obviously a fake documentary (you can see the camera crew filming them and the real director is played by an actor), the interviews with real everyday people are real. These interviews are interlaced with the plot of Paper Heart itself, where people talk about how they fell in love, why they got divorced, the science behind love, etc. On occasion, the stories are acted out (with the help of paper cut-outs) by Yi herself as the person relates their story. These parts I found the most interesting, and it shines some light on how Americans view love in its many different forms.

The fictional part of Paper Heart is also interesting, and seamlessly flows with the real footage. Cera is playing his normal gawky awkward role, and since he is playing himself, that leads me to believe that this will forever be the extent of his range. Yi is absolutely adorable, a total geek with a very noticeable (and sometimes annoying) laugh, a general whimsy about the idea of love, and even a certain sadness about the fact that she (or her character… or something) cannot express it or feel it herself. The romance between the two has a very generic quirky indie feel, but since they are playing themselves, it feels more organic and realistic. There is no big declaration of love or any of those kinds of scenes; since this is based in reality, it’s just a lot of talking and a lot of uncertainty and I really dug that.

By the end of Paper Heart, I had a giant grin on my face. The real stories about love mixed in with Yi’s journey to finally gain the ability to experience these feelings create a very nice viewing experience and it was so sweet I could feel a toothache coming on as the credits began to roll (the last scene itself is very epic in a really cool and inventive way). Yi and Cera are very awkward people, and Paper Heart may turn off people who are sick of watching quirky people fall in love in every single movie that has been given the “independent” genre label. If you can fight through your own feelings, you’ll find a sweet romance and it’ll even make you think about your own thoughts on what you consider love and true love.

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