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Surprisingly, not a documentary about scrapbooking: Paper Heart

Love. It’s a universal theme, important to all of us in one way or another. But seriously, if I have to see another movie on the topic I think I’m going to vomit just a little in my mouth. So, when I had the chance to sneak along to a critic’s screening of a new documentary about love called Paper Heart, you can understand why I had a bucket handy. For a `love skeptic’ such as myself, Paper Heart is the kind of movie you walk into slightly cynical, but leave feeling warm and fuzzy – despite your best intentions.

Treading the line between documentary and narrative, the film is the brainchild of musician, comedienne, actress and all out goofball Charlyne Yi. And yes, for those of you playing along at home, she is the stoner girlfriend in Knocked Up. Paper Heart really is Yi’s baby – she’s the executive producer, writer and star of the film. She even created the sweet, minimalist score along with co-star Michael Cera. The film relies heavily on the many charms and quirks of Yi as it follows her on a quest across America with friend and director Nicholas Jasenovec to make a documentary about a subject she doesn’t understand or believe in: love.

In exploring the notion of love, Yi doesn’t try to sugar coat anything, so her interviews involve everyone from widowers to high-school sweethearts. The film is a beautiful mish-mash of techniques incorporating everything from homemade puppetry to interviews with Yi’s celebrity friends, including Seth Rogen and Demetri Martin. Her quirky, hilarious, shy, and often painfully awkward persona is immediately endearing to the audience, turning her into a refreshing heroine. The autistic-style humour hilariously delves beneath the surface to bring the audience amusing truths, and is likely to be appreciated by fans of films like Juno and Adventureland which utilise a similar brand of comedy.

However, the onscreen romance between Yi and Cera does leave you feeling a little cheated once you realise it’s fictitious and created entirely for the movie. Or is it? There has long been rumours circulating about a real-life romance between the two and that would certainly explain why Cera would have got involved with such a low-budget, off-beat movie like this. Essentially it doesn’t matter, as long as you can overlook the fact that most of the actors are playing alternate versions of themselves . . . except for director Nicholas Jasenovec, who is played by actor Jake Johnson in the film (apparently because he thought it was too difficult to direct from in front of the camera).

Like the leading protagonist, this is a unique film and with a running time of just over 80 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Although at its core a romantic comedy with a dash of documentary, Paper Heart is an ode to love and life itself. Not afraid to show the good and the bad aspects of one of humanity’s most universal themes, the film is a refreshing and pleasantly non-sickening look at love. A sweet, kooky doco-drama, Paper Heart has plenty of, er, heart… albeit a paper one.

Paper Heart is currently screening in limited release.

words: Maria Lewis


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