Starring: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake M. Johnson
Directed by: Nicholas Jasenovec (debut)
Written by: Nicholas Jasenovec (debut) and Charlyne Yi (debut)
The onslaught of quirky romantic comedies continues this year with the well-intended but off-centered love story “Paper Heart.” Part mockumentary and part fictional narrative, the idea behind this essentially one-woman show is more attractive in a pure form than it is in a genre blend.
Nevertheless, at least director/co-writer Nicholas Jasenovec has Charlyne Yi in his corner. Charlyne is the saving grace of a picture that starts promising but loses its way once it realizes what kind of film it is becoming. In the more documentary-driven portions of “Paper Heart,” Charlyne goes on a personal quest to face her own uncertainties on love and the opposite sex.
With a camera crew and director in tow, Charlyne, who is best known as the giggly pot smoker in “Knocked Up,” travels across the U.S. to interview everyday people about love-related issues. During her journey, she aims to understand why she doesn’t believe in something most people hope to find at least once in their lives. From an interview with a biologist who tries to explain love in scientific terms to an impromptu chat with kids on a playground, Charlyne gets a few lighthearted and smile-worthy quotes from her subjects. Other interviews aren’t as well-planned, however. The idea to visit a fortune-teller lacks creativity while a trip to Paris proves to be an unnecessary indulgence.
Truthfully, Charlyne really is the only genuine part of this romantic crossbreed. A few scenes into “Paper Heart” – when it’s obvious how hard it will actually be to capture Charlyne falling in love – Jasenovec, who is actually portrayed in the film by actor Jake M. Johnson (TV’s “Derek and Simon: The Show”), calls out an audible. In this instance, the monkey wrench is actor Michael Cera (“Super Bad”). Like Charlyne, Cera plays himself, which, oddly enough, is the same character he plays in all his movies. For this role, however, Jasenovec (the real one not the fictional one) uses him as a pawn so that he can force his leading man and woman into a narrative that never completely develops.
While Michael Cera is usually as well-received as a surprise birthday party, he’s sort of a downer in “Paper Heart.” What we really want more of is Charlyne, a real-life stand-up comedian based out of L.A. A reality show centered on Charlyne would charm the pants off anyone. It’s too bad “Paper Heart”‘s flimsy script rains on her happy-go-lucky parade.