Sunday, December 6, 2009

Paper Heart

"Paper Heart" captures the feeling of one of those projects, ambitious or whatever, that you can't quite finish. I've had these in terms of videos and the like: you put in time on them, but you just can't get the mileage you need out of a certain idea or plot. That's probably what the fictional representation of Nicholas Jasenovec (Jake M. Johnson) feels as this film starts to wind down. It's hard to capture life on camera, dulling for the person on it and frustrating for the person behind it.

This movie somewhat captures this feeling that I've been describing. It would be different if Charlyne Yi played someone who couldn't feel love who finally developed a relationship with someone played by Michael Cera. It's interesting since you get the whole feeling of the moment, as it is played as real, so you have the difficulties described above coming into play. But that's not all it is. Yi, who finds herself (fictionally or not) without a trace of love in her, goes out to find definitions of love from people scattered throughout the country. For me, what she found felt a little contrived, but I guess these are real stories. The best interview scene for me involved children in Atlanta, which may sound like it will be a groan coming, but think otherwise. I thought it was actually pretty funny. As I said, this is intercut with her relationship with Cera, which looks very predictable when you think about it. This is especially true in the end when the progression of the relationship seems to be accelerated to the point of Yi bemoaning the absence of Cera in her life. Ebert is right: the thing in this movie that is really important and perhaps the X factor for it to be good is Yi, who is endearing and an encouraging interviewer (though, as some IMDB people said, kind of difficult).

The same could not be said for Bill Maher, who takes on the equally gargantuan subject of religion in his film "Religulous." That film could be considered better considering that it's a real documentary and also because the results are (slightly) more interesting. That film also was trying to make somewhat of a point, however heavy-handed. This film is less about its subject than its techniques, at least for me. As self-conscious and "quirky" Yi and Cera are, I guess the conclusion of this film could never have been satisfying (for me or for people on IMDB). But perhaps as I said before maybe it's supposed to be a project too big too finish, but I dunno. A paradox: the movie works because it stars moderately famous Yi and Cera, and because a relationship starts between them on film, but then we sort of know what will happen since it's in a self-contained box of sorts. You know what you're getting, which is charming, but also problematic and obnoxiously "quirky," like Jake Johnson's character. C+


aspergiansarah said...

I'm sorry, I have not yet seen "Paper Heart" so don't have a real comment. What I'm wondering is, what's that calculator thing on the upper right hand corner? If it tracks visitors, how do I get one? On my blog (also movies) they have a number of views, but I think that's mostly me not signed in.

Nick Duval said... I saw it on your mom's website Stark Raving Bibliophile.

--- Nick