Paper Heart Movie Review
Performance artist Charlyne Yi and her friend Nick (Johnson) decide to make a documentary examining why Charlyne doesn't believe she's capable of falling in love. Nick follows her around the country talking to people about relationships. And he also photographs her regular life, during which she meets the actor Michael Cera at a party and starts a tentative relationship. Nick is a bit overexcited by this turn of events, and starts pushing them to fall in love so his film will have a great finale.
From the start we know this isn't a pure documentary, partly because an actor is playing Nick (everyone else plays themselves) but also because the film illustrates anecdotes and back-stories using Yi's distinctive hand-cut animation, which is reminiscent of Michel Gondry's effects work. Put together, it's a disarmingly effective way to look at the elusive nature of romance, as both fact and fiction offer insights that are funny, sweet and sometimes deranged.
Yi and Cera play themselves pretty much exactly like every other role they've had, which makes them believable and thoroughly charming. The chemistry between them is both shaky and engaging; we really root for them to find something deeper together, even as the camera crew pesters them beyond belief. But the offhanded filmmaking style really captures their personalities, packing the film with bone-dry wit as well as their love of very cool music.
When Nick starts to manipulate their relationship, the film takes a wonderfully surreal turn. There's a hilarious reverse shot of the crew filming a key moment as the couple's need for privacy clashes with Nick's need for footage.
Meanwhile, Charlyne is talking to people about their own experiences, including serious things like same-sex partnerships, why relationships break down and how to cope with a broken heart. The key point here is that everyone's definition of love is different, ranging from precocious children to wry seasoned couples.
And the climactic sequence in Paris adds a lovely twist to it all.