Sundance Features, 2009: Paper Heart
Charlyne Yi (Chuck), the awkward Asian-American girl with big glasses from Knocked Up, is an LA- based artist and comedian who plays herself in this faux documentary (winner of the screenwriting prize at Sundance 2009), about the making of a documentary about a girl who wants to know whether love is for real. She traverses the country, speaking to people from all walks of life: scientists, married couples, both straight and gay, a romance novelist, a divorce judge and family lawyer who happen to be married, a psychic, musicians, kids. All of those she talks to seem to believe in the possibility of love, and Charlyne wonders whether it could happen to her.
Of course it does. Along the way she meets Michael Cera, apparently her actual boyfriend, as himself, and a small romance begins only to be interrupted and stifled by the fact that the director of the documentary within the faux documentary insists upon filming every intimate moment in the development of their relationship. In spite of the deception built into the basic conceit, and in spite of the awkwardness of the leads, the film is quite sweet and tender and honest about love. The film never gives away that it is not really a documentary — and one of my students was shocked to find that it wasn’t only during the question and answer period that followed the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
Charlyne Yi has a sweet awkwardness and infectious smile, and an inventive way of telling stories: she creates clever cardboard animation sequences to illustrate the sincere accounts of true love her interviewees tell. The film itself feels completely sincere, and holds up the possibility of love without closing on a “happy ever after.” Paper hearts is an inventive and unusual and entertainingly unique romantic comedy. If making the film doesn’t entirely convince the heroine of the possibility of love, it should convince anyone but the most jaded filmgoer of the vital possibilities for independent cinematic reinventions of traditional film genres.