manufactured Heart

Paper Heart (2009)

Nicholas Jasenovec, director.

Editing by Ryan Brown

Nicholas Jasenovec & Charlyne Yi, executive producers & writers.

Jay Hunter, director of photography

Music by Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera

Distributed by Overture Films

Running time:  87 minutes

Starring: Charlyne Yi (herself), Michael Cera (himself), and Jake M. Johnson (as Nicholas Jasenovec).

Won Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, Nominated for Grand Jury Prize at 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

“I do not dislike Paper Heart,” Sean opines.  Here we go again with the “I don’t dislike”; though I can pretty much say that I did not enjoy the film. Jeanette Catsoulis of the New York Times hit the reason on the head in her August 7, 2009 review:  “Your enjoyment of Paper Heart will hinge almost entirely on your receptiveness to Ms. [Charlyne] Yi and the extreme iteration of social awkwardness she represents.” I was not receptive. I found her whiny and uninteresting and myself rebellious to the idea that she is supposed to be some cool genius person to which everyone should respond.  I, lover of geekdom, missed her charm somewhere.  Alas, the movie failed to convince me, even though it was to continually reiterate her gawky charm and comic genius. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I was surprised the comedy was lost on me as I am becoming increasingly aware that I have very little sense of humor left.

The premise of the film is that Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi are going to make a documentary about romantic love: What is it? Who gets to experience it, and, maybe, why? The questions are asked by Yi who has not loved, and doubts her ability to ever love—romantically. The director and star approach interviews with his professionalism focused (are your questions ready?) and her deceptive casualness and unconcern cracking jokes (what? I can’t hear you and you can’t hear me? Aren’t I funny?).

And then, Surprise! She is suddenly starring in not only a questionably intellectual documentary, but a harlequin romance of her own.  You’ll enjoy the interview with the romance author where the author lays out the formula for romance novels and explains why the formula exists and continues to work. The film follows formula (however wittingly); and upon further contemplation, I began to feel insulted by the perpetration of said formula. However a flaw does appear in apply the harlequin formula; neither hero is someone I would desire to be, or be with. A challenge; or another hinge?

The “documentary” has the trio of director, cinematographer, and star (the ones you get to see, but for one moment of a sound guy) traveling across America interviewing a cross-section of people, the every-day people, and the scientific, the professions of the Romance business, and children on the playground. According to many reviews read, and for myself and husband, the interviews are the most redeeming aspect of the film, and the only part you wouldn’t consider staged; though of course, selected and edited as footage. However, I cannot help but question the sweet sincerity of those interviewed? Sure, editing is a craft, but with the contrivance of everything else, I question the genuineness of everything in the film; a hopeful outcome brought to you by the film’s creators? Everything depicted and discussed about Romantic Love is mere invention, everything. And so, after viewing, it is you, the viewer sent to contemplate “what is love” and “have I really experienced it?” Or is the whole idea/emotion a contrivance—and to what purpose?

Are the formulaic romances and their tenets for mere entertainment, or perhaps profit (as Elvis chucklingly admits)?

Once Yi and Cera are introduced and begin dating, the focus of the film’s documentary shifts.  So, I guess they had to go back and re-film the making of the documentary to include footage of the director and Jasenovec’s interaction with the documentary and Yi [so he could direct the film and have someone more attractive play himself]. The director/producer becomes creator of conflict between the performers Yi and Cera—hmm.  Can we talk about this film without using “meta?” Or even “meta-meta”? I wish we wouldn’t, because the film becomes an even duller endeavor; and I am forced to remember that the narcissism extends to the fact that the stars are also the writers and are executive producers. The criticisms awoken in the “meta” film are directed toward the film industry itself, where the film belongs; to be enjoyed by the himselves, and herselves, the film projects: an unromantic heroine and her romantically inclined (type-casted) hero.

Michael Cera, though sweetly awkward at points, comes across as human and available—as a grown-up. He also comes across as the victim, abused by director and starlet alike. Her clueless, widened-eyes, do not wash; nor does her blaming the film project’s evils on the director. If Cera is our representative, what is the film saying? Females have long been a victim, but so are males? Victims of a heartless industry that is “romantic love?”

As Catsoulis’ review maintains: “Paper Heart is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Adult language and infantile behavior.” Paper Heart is over-played, even as it is under-acted (as if we are to forget the actress is not an actress but a regular citizen on film?). The “infantile behavior” makes the film unpalatable, despite the illustrated criticisms of its apparent focus, “love.”



NY Times Review

Ebert’s Review


Interested in the young and potentially sweetly-awkward representative exploring ‘what is romantic love?’–real or contrived, etc… & something of an Indie feel? check out (500) Days of Summer (2009) instead.

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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