Paper Heart (2009), is an indie/romance film starring Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi. The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and is kind of critically acclaimed? It was Charlyne’s first shot at screenwriting, after having starred in a few well-known films like Knocked Up (2007), and Cloverfield (2008). I was quite obviously intrigued by the fact that it stars my favorite actor; Michael Cera, but when I found out it only sports a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, I was a little scared. That being said, I gave it a watch and it was certainly interesting.
The film takes the perspective of a documentary on love, and how the main character (Charlyne) doesn’t believe in it. Everyone plays themselves, and they travel around the country asking real people about their personal views on love. Weaved into that is a story about Michael Cera and Charlyne’s relationship, and how that develops. The idea of a fake documentary is quite obviously not original, with others films like Borat (2006) releasing a while before Paper Heart. That being said, I had never seen it done with a romance film, and the way they are able to weave in the main story in with the theme was incredibly impressive to me.
Like many films I’ve reviewed thus far, it gets a lot of its charm from the fact that it’s a low-budget film. The shaky cam shots, awkward (relatable) dialogue between characters, and real-life situations they find themselves create a great sense of reality. It reminds me of a Noah Baumbach film, in how it focuses on character relationships and lifelike scenarios to bring out the natural look and feel of everything. The acting and writing also take the forefront of the film, carrying it a long ways by themselves. It was made with the intent of looking low-budget (but it also was), so the production quality is not very high at all. This isn’t a detriment to it though, because that’s kind of the point of the movie.
The movie does a better job gaining laughs than I thought it would. There were several moments where me and a friend were cracking up, but it relies on a certain awkward tension that many of us can relate to. If you’re not an awkward person, it may not be as enjoyable or funny to you because these experiences aren’t realistic for someone such as yourself. It’s heavily reliant on you understanding what it’s like, or at least imagining it. But if you get it, you get it, and it’s probably hilarious.
While it’s very good at the several things that it focuses on, it’s not a theatrical masterpiece. The soundtrack was created by Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi, which creates a decent indie vibe that certainly fits with the aesthetic. That being said, it’s nothing like some of the great pieces created by someone such as Trent Reznor, or John Williams. You realistically can’t compare the two people and expect their work to be of similar quality, but nonetheless, it doesn’t compare to a large, well-thought-out soundtrack. It’s cute, quirky, and simple much like the rest of the film.
Also, as much as it is a new and inventive take on the romance genre, there’s only so many things you can reinvent in one film. It does rely on several tropes and events that you can see coming a mile away, so it never really takes you off guard. At this point, this is about 99% of romance comedies. It certainly comes with the job, but they still could have most likely been a little more imaginative than they were.
Overall, it’s a well-written, well-acted indie film. It’s very dependent on its quirkiness to make it likable, and it’s nothing mind-blowing, but I think it has a good place in the romance genre. It is quite a large bit above average in its category, which is impressive in its own right, and while I wasn’t there myself, I can imagine it deserved the screenwriting award that it received. It is an impressive feat no matter what. I’m thinking a 7.5/10 on this one. It was incredibly solid in most things, and a bit inventive, but it didn’t blow me out of the water when it came to any particular thing. Everything was pretty good, and it was fresh.