Childlike comedian Charlyne Yi, whose claim to fame heretofore has been a small but funny role as a stoner girl in Knocked Up, joins forces with director Nicholas Jasenovec to make a documentary about love, and why people fall in love, and why Yi is unable to.
At least it purports to be a documentary. In what could be called the Blair Witch Project of romantic comedies, it quickly becomes evident that a lot of this is scripted – especially when beloved movie star geek Michael Cera enters the picture and starts dating Yi in front of the camera. To complicate matters, director Jasenovec is played on screen by actor Jake M. Johnson!
There are still enough cross-country interviews with real life paramours to qualify Paper Heart as a quasi-documentary, but whether you like the film or not depends entirely on how you react to Charlyne Yi's quirky personality. Some will find her cloying. Some, grating. Some, utterly charming. I was dreading the worst, to be honest, but I found myself liking her. She seems genuine, and a brief clip at the beginning of the film sums up her shtick: Performing her standup act, Yi tells the audience that her normal-looking hair is actually a wig and pretends to pull it off. Then she lamely says, "Ha ha, bet you thought it was a wig," to weak laughter. Then she says, "Bet you thought it was my real hair!" and actually reveals that it is a wig – covering up her hair, which looks exactly the same as the wig. The crowd goes nuts. This sort of gentle put-on, where an obvious, half-baked gag reveals a funnier, smarter surprise and even a strange sort of truth, is what makes Paper Heart tick.
There is more to this film than just cutesiness. It's also a statement on how impossible it is to live normally when a camera is tracking your every move – a subtle critique not only of reality TV but of documentaries in general. In the end, I was won over by Yi and her unclassifiable project, and although it's nothing earth-shattering, it's a sweet little movie.