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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Stick to the trailer: Indie flick “Paper Heart” disappoints

Published: August 27, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

CUDDLY Costars: Charlyne Yi searches for love with Michael Cera, Nicholas Jasonovec and Jake Johnson (from left to right) in Paper Heart.<br /><i>PHOTO from Internet Source</i>

CUDDLY Costars: Charlyne Yi searches for love with Michael Cera, Nicholas Jasonovec and Jake Johnson (from left to right) in Paper Heart.
PHOTO from Internet Source

Michael Cera has indie credibility. We were first introduced to him on the small screen in the cult-tv show “Arrested Development” and two years ago, he charmed the big screen as the adorable-if-hapless baby-daddy Paulie Bleaker in “Juno.” Riding the wave of “Juno,” we saw him roam the bars of the East Village and Williamsburg as the again, adorable-if-hapless (though apparently sexually skilled) Nick in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. I love Michael Cera in all his hooded-sweatshirt and nervous smile glory. But not even his adorable-if-hapless hipster appeal could save his most recent endeavor, “Paper Heart.”

To be fair, Paper Heart does not star Michael Cera. Musician/comedian Charlyne Yi is the focus of the meta-film. We first meet Charlyne with microphone in hand on the streets of Las Vegas as she unsuccessfully attempts to solicit thoughts on love from perfect strangers. I had a feeling then that I might have wasted my $4.75 for the commuter rail, $1.70 for the T, $9.75 for the ticket, and $1.25 to take the 70 back from Central Square.

The film is meant to feel like a documentary of a documentary. We’re not supposed to be certain where real ends and fiction begins. The structure is intriguing and the premise of the movie is cute enough. Charlyne doesn’t believe in love, so she and director Nick Jasenovec (played on screen by actor Jake Johnson) decide to travel across the country to pick people’s brains about love and relationships. Along the way, Charlyne meets Michael Cera at a house party. He is apparently smitten and after an orchestrated ‘chance’ meeting at the Los Angeles Zoo, the two go on their first date.

Charlyne and Michael’s relationship is admittedly sweet. It managed to break through my beginning of the semester malaise and make me think that maybe young love is, after all, not just a fairy tale. More than just being lovely and sweet, Charlyne and Michael’s relationship spawns questions about falling in love under the microscope – an issue particularly pertinent for our plugged-in generation. We see the two of them, Michael in particular, struggling with developing a relationship in front of the camera. And the lesson is clear, two people’s budding love isn’t meant for public consumption.

The message that nurturing love is private extends to the non-celebrity and non-reality television cast member contingent. In an age where we know when the girl who sat in the back of our high school biology class breaks up or gets engaged, Paper Heart might be telling us to chill with the Facebook relationship status feature. And while I can certainly jump on that bandwagon, the film still rubbed me the wrong way.

My problem with the film is not its pretension, its puppetry reenactments, its trite premise, or its predictably unpredictable ending. I simply couldn’t stand Charlyne. I want to like her. I want to support a young woman making her mark in cinema. I want to support her for following the beat of her own drum. But I can’t. She annoyed me. She’s charming in the trailer but 89 minutes of Charlyne is overkill, and if you can’t get behind Charlyne, the film falls apart. For that reason, “Paper Heart” just isn’t worth your money. The trailer still stands up as one of the better trailers I’ve seen in a long time. While the movie angered me enough to find fault with even the most adorable of puppies, the trailer managed to set my heart aflutter.