Paper Heart - Movie Review
Charlyne Yi is quite a mischievous butterfly. Just watch Paper Heart's opening clip of her stand-up routine, where she approaches the audience, tells them she has a wig while reaching for it, in a "just kidding" attitude confronts the audience that she made them think she was wearing a wig, and then removes the wig she is in fact wearing. Paper Heart is a film that is meant to reveal the truth about love by masking it with a fictional narrative, also based upon truth. It's a documentary when it features interviews, otherwise it's a scripted partial-reconstruction of the real-life relationship Charlyne Yi has with her co-star Michael Cera... who also appears in the film as himself.
Yes. It can be confusing, and that confusion is often a distraction. Which is unfortunate if you're aware of it, because Paper Heart on its own is a very entertaining and very endearing film. Had I never heard of the people in this movie, I don't think I would have doubted for a second that segments of it were real, when in fact they were completely staged.
But then again, just because it's staged doesn't mean it can't reveal something that is very real.
Charlyne Yi's earnestness, and what appeared to me as intentional awkwardness, somewhat put me off at first. I couldn't help but be suspicious as that awkward persona is frequently utilized by her to draw out a reaction. But she grows on you. After a while, you don't really care how much of it is fake or real. All of it is simply charming.
The film is directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, and in the film he functions as the lead antagonist. To him, the film itself comes before its subjects, sometimes at great emotional cost. But that's also not really Nicholas Jasenovec on screen. That's actually Jake M. Johnson, and of all the people in this movie I was most impressed by the dynamics he brought with his performance. Not entirely bad, but entirely focused on his art, his character is constantly changing while adhering to an alterior motivation.
At the recent Q&A session I attended I was confused when the director Nicholas Jasenovec began taking questions, as he looked nothing like his on-screen counterpart. For the lack of a better phrase, I got pwnd good.
Paper Heart enjoys playing around with the audience, but at a deeper level I considered the staging and scripted scenes to be fueled by an insecurity considering it's subject, that being love itself.
I made a documentary too, and it's a lot like this one, at times almost startlingly like this one. But it was real, and I actually lived it. I'm really grateful for that. Although this story is entertaining and heartwarming, when that wig was eventually revealed as false the film left me feeling a bit cheated. But that was just because of what I went through in making my own film. It's terrifying making a film that is truly honest, and it's even more terrifying to reveal that honesty to others. Despite it's facade, Paper Heart just isn't that honest with us, at least not in the same way. Is it still a good movie? Yes. Absolutely. It's a great one. But when it comes to authenticity it's just as earnest as its leading lady.