Mixed(-Up) Media 

Paper Heart's look at love is part doc, part fiction, part art project.

Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi

Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi

Before starring in Paper Heart, comedienne/musician/actress Charlyne Yi was best known as Jodi, the pot-smoking Asian girl whose giggly stream-of-consciousness patter stole a couple of scenes from stoner boys (and accomplished comedians) such as Martin Starr, Jason Segal, and Seth Rogen in 2007's Knocked Up. But although it's hardly as grating or twee as it looks, Paper Heart definitively proves that Yi's charms are best appreciated in small doses.

Paper Heart is part documentary, part scripted romantic comedy, and part grade school art project (certain stories and memories are re-created with pipe-cleaner dolls and Michel Gondry-esque construction-paper sets), but all of the film's forms are used to follow Yi's search for love in the universe.

The sequences where Yi asks mature adults about their heartbreaks and their romances are quietly effective, particularly when one woman who's been married for years claims that "the world looked better" during the early days of her relationship. But Yi and director/co-writer Nicholas Jasenovec are more interested in the dingbat philosophizing of grade school kids, bikers, Elvis impersonators, Las Vegas wedding-chapel directors, and roadside psychics, because these freaks' optimism, combined with their marginal social status, justifies Yi's skepticism about true romance more than the testimonials from ordinary folk. After all, who but a con-artist psychic who clearly hasn't a clue about Yi's life would ever try to claim that there's someone out there for her? (Almost as an act of vengeance, the psychic predicts romantic disaster for Yi.)

Yi's skepticism is challenged when she meets Michael Cera at a house party and begins a tentative, sorta sweet relationship with him that's filled with such 21st-century bohemian romantic tropes as late-night instant messaging, discreet kisses, and home-demo Moldy Peaches-type songs of longing. Supposedly, director Jasenovec (played in the film by actor Jake Johnson) changes the focus of his film from love in general to Yi's budding relationship in particular, but the introduction of Cera's "character" is so clearly a fictional contrivance that the switch feels false. As both Yi and Cera start to resent the ever-present cameras, Jasenovec and Yi seem on the verge of saying something here about the impact of science's "observer effect" on romantic relationships, but there's nothing in any scene here as funny or astute as Albert Brooks' 1979 reality-TV masterpiece Real Life.

Paper Heart's greatest achievement may be the way it shows the world through the eyes of a type of gal — the awkward, average-looking tomboy who cannot love — who never gets to star in movies even though she's been a fixture of the alternative high school and liberal-arts college micro-culture for years. As for Cera, he is loose and funny in his scenes with Yi, but how many more times can he play the stringbean in love with the quirky girl?

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Paper Heart
Rated PG-13 · 89 min. · 2009
Official Site: www.paperheart-movie.com
Director: Nick Jasenovec
Writer: Nick Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi
Producer: Sandra Murillo and Elise Salomon
Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera and Jake Johnson


Now Playing

Paper Heart is not showing in any theaters in the area.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • The Predator

      Writer/director Shane Black reboots Schwarzenegger’s 80s alien nemesis in The Predator
    • The Nun

      The latest installment in The Conjuring series is the pumpkin spice latte of horror movies
    • 2018 Outflix Film Festival

      Memphis' Long Running LBGTQ Film Festival Stresses Community Outreach


Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Let's Do The Time Warp Drive-In With John Waters

Intermission Impossible

Hattiloo Puts the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the Spotlight

News Blog

Female Population On the Rise at Shelby County Jail

Music Blog

Dancing Highlife in Memphis, Obruni Style

Hungry Memphis

Now Open: Nutrition Bar

News Blog

Strickland Asks For Trust On Banks' Shooting

Hungry Memphis

LYFE Kitchen Closed

Hungry Memphis

Sneak Peek at Ronnie Grisanti's

Hungry Memphis

Launch Process Expands with Penny Lounge


More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Lean On Pete

    • May 16, 2018
  • Fifty Shades Darker

    America gets the boundary pushing lifestyle porn it deserves
    • Feb 16, 2017
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation