Paper Heart (2009)
Paper Heart (2009)

Genre: Documentary and Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: August 7th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Nicholas Jasenovec Actors: Michael Cera, Charlyne Yi, Jake Johnson, Martin Starr, Seth Rogen




erhaps as whimsical and spontaneous as the very nature of true love, “Paper Heart” examines the varying degrees and definitions of that magical feeling with little finite direction. But the quirky characters and creative presentation balance out a wandering plot. Halfway through, the documentary approach gives way to the fairytale romance it set out to disprove, somewhat negating the efficacy of documenting reality, though the seamless blending with narrative storytelling does provide a uniquely intriguing result. Only upon outside investigation will the elaborate façade peel away; almost certainly, research will be done by those finding themselves drawn to the lives portrayed onscreen. While the film may not tell what love really is, it might angle pre-existing notions about the subject towards something more promisingly optimistic.

A somewhat pseudo-documentary romantic comedy, “Paper Heart” follows Nick (Jake M. Johnson) and Charlyne (Charlyne Yi) on a cross-country journey to document what exactly “love” is. Interviewing ministers, happily married couples, chemists, romance novelists, divorce lawyers, a group of children, and more, the determined young girl attempts to find answers and perhaps even experience the mysterious emotion herself. But as they travel across the United States and even venture to “The City of Love,” her pessimistic denial may hinder her chances at finding real happiness.

Love can be defined in countless methods, as well as be interpreted in an endless amount of ways. But viewers already knew that. “Paper Heart” doesn’t educate audiences on the many hypotheses, nor does it clarify the feedback. It merely makes a social commentary on the subject. Movies and fairy tales have a lot to do with skewing perceptions on love, and it seems that people are generally a bit skeptical. But whether it’s a chemical reaction, a drug-induced state, or a mystical phenomenon, the film only serves as an experiment in love – under the constant bombardment of cameras. The nonexistence of privacy is such a distracting factor that real love never has a chance at developing normally.

“Paper Heart” proves that Michael Cera is the same in real life as he portrays characters on film. It also proves that anyone can make a movie, provided someone famous or well-connected is involved. Regardless of how much is staged, giving it a half-documentary feel, the stories by real people prove to be the most interesting. Yi and Cera’s chemistry is like something out of a movie, and considering the involvement of the filming crew, it’s never really more than that. Perhaps most unique is the improvised documentary approach, convincing viewers that the editing and presentation is based almost entirely on how an undetermined romance plays out. The use of stylized paper dolls is similarly amusing. But in the end, Yi’s beliefs don’t really change. It’s not about her inability to love, but rather her unwillingness to delineate it.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10