Looking For Romance, Armed With A 'Paper Heart'

WD: Charlyne Yi in 'Paper Heart' i i

Comedian Charlyne Yi stars as herself in a squirm-inducing mockumentary about a woman who claims not to believe in love — only to find herself falling for actor Michael Cera. Justina Mintz/Overture Films hide caption

itoggle caption Justina Mintz/Overture Films
WD: Charlyne Yi in 'Paper Heart'

Comedian Charlyne Yi stars as herself in a squirm-inducing mockumentary about a woman who claims not to believe in love — only to find herself falling for actor Michael Cera.

Justina Mintz/Overture Films

Paper Heart

  • Director: Nicholas Jasenovec
  • Genre: First-person mockumentary, comedy
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Rated PG-13: Strong language

With: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake M. Johnson

Comedian-actress Charlyne Yi begins Paper Heart, which purports to be a documentary, by claiming not to believe in romantic love. How can you tell she's lying?

A) All women believe in romantic love;

B) All American movies about people who doubt the existence of romance conclude with their falling in love; or

C) The movie stars Yi's real-life boyfriend.

There may be exceptions to A and B, but C is inarguable. Yi and her beau, bad-boy-comedy star Michael Cera, aren't exactly Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but they were known to be a couple when Paper Heart was made. Their relationship, whose beginnings the movie pretends to record, adds an annoyingly coy note to a movie that's otherwise too thin to generate much of a response.

In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone caring much about Paper Heart unless they already had some affection for Yi or — more likely, since he's better known — Cera. And even dedicated fans may cringe when they discover that Yi and Cera have included their own amateurish warblings on the soundtrack. "You shoot me in the heart," goes one lyric, but the actual target is the audience's ears.

The movie begins in Las Vegas, where Yi asks passersby if they've ever been in love. This unscripted line of inquiry later takes the comedian and director Nicholas Jasenovec (played on screen by Jake Johnson) to a biker bar, a divorce court and a playground.

As young kids and longtime couples blandly insist that romance is real, all Yi can do is look sheepish. Whether trying on a wedding dress or telling the crew — in a sequence written by Yi and Jasenovec — that Cera "broke up" with her, she maintains the same expression. The innocuously deadpan Cera, who specializes in playing rueful wimps, doesn't offer much of a contrast to his leading lady. Opposites attract? Yi and Cera might as well be fraternal twins.

Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi in 'Paper Heart' i i

Cera was Yi's real-life boyfriend when the film was made — though the mockumentary feigns to capture their budding romance from the start. Justina Mintz/Overture Films hide caption

itoggle caption Justina Mintz/Overture Films
Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi in 'Paper Heart'

Cera was Yi's real-life boyfriend when the film was made — though the mockumentary feigns to capture their budding romance from the start.

Justina Mintz/Overture Films

To add a little attitude, the filmmakers interject stop-action animation sequences using paper cutouts. Yi imagines love as scenes from action movies, rendered so crudely that they look like the results of a summer-camp filmmaking class.

The animated inserts aren't the movie's only childish aspect. Paper Heart also includes home-movie footage of a stuffed-animal wedding — and of course that male lead, who is essentially a spindly teddy bear.

Like so many Gen-Y comedies, Paper Heart features adults playing at being kids. Maybe that's why Yi feigns disbelief in romantic love. To commit to an adult relationship, first you have to commit to being an adult.

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