I tried, I really did. After hearing many things about Charlene Yi’s twee, Sundance-minted, is-she-really-going-out-with-him? valentine to costar Michael Cera (and not all of them good), I dove in with an open heart and mind. Alas, part documentary, part mockumentary, part traditional romantic comedy and part grad student research project, Paper Heart tilts over into insufferable cuteness fairly early on, and never really regains its footing.
In the movie, deadpan comedienne/actress/emo pin-up Yi does not believe in love. Or so she says. At the very least, she doesn’t believe in fairy-tale love or the Hollywood mythology of love; her own experiences have turned her into a modern day skeptic, so she sets out on a road trip to make a documentary about America’s attitudes toward affection, sex, romance and all that stuff. Melding together different elements of storytelling, reality and fantasy, Paper Heart is partially that project, and partially its own cheeky commentary on cinematic romantic virtue.
Co-written by Yi and director Nicholas Jasenovec (portrayed in the movie by Jake Johnson… are you following?), Paper Heart has an inquisitive spirit, that’s for sure. So: points there. But it gets so up inside its own head, and is so gratified with its own cheeky inventiveness, that it smothers what sense of burgeoning discovery and sunny identification one might have with it. There is a reason that the tritest expressions can soar when sung, just as there is a reason that people locate satisfaction and emotional catharsis in hokey cinematic expressions of love. Paper Heart isn’t interested in exploring this dichotomy, however; it just wants to cleverly spitball and slag, from a distance. So it becomes tedious (even at 88 minutes), and a slave to its own winsome arthouse instincts.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, Paper Heart comes to DVD presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, with an English language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. DVD bonus features include a making-of featurette, live musical performances by Yi, a music video of “Heaven” featuring Yi and Cera, plus a clutch of interviews and deleted scenes. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D (Movie) B- (Disc)