I am velvety-smoothReview is BELOWI am veltely smooth, too
DVD: Paper Heart (2009)
Very Good
DVD Transfer: 
Very Good
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1 (NTSC)

November 1, 2009




Genre: Comedy / Documentary / Mockumentary  
A camera crew follows comedienne Charlyne Yi across the U.S. as she attempts to understand What Is Love.  



Directed by:

Nicholas Jasenovec
Screenplay by: Nicholas Jasenovec, Charlyne Yi
Music by: Michael Cera, Charlyne Yi
Produced by: Sandra Murillo, Elise Salomon

Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake M. Johnson.

Film Length: 88 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.78:1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:  Spanish; English Closed Captioned
Special Features :  

2 Featurettes: “Paper Heart Uncut” (7:27) + “The Making of Paper Heart” (10:46) / 4 Live Musical Performances by Charlyne Yi (6:31) + “Heaven” Music Video by Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera (1:43) / 8 Interviews with Comedians on “Love” (26:09) / 17 Deleted Scenes (31:23) / Theatrical Trailer

Comments :

2009 Sundance Film Festival Winner: Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award


The blurring of genre borders in film continues with this half-drama, half documentary from comedienne Charlyne Yi, who uses the feature length format to document her efforts as she travels the U.S., interviews ordinary people, and tries to understand What Is Love, and why she’s been unable to experience it in her life. Interspersed with real Q&As is an increasingly improbable storyline where Yi develops an interest in actor Michael Cera (Arrested Development), whom she met at a party early in the film’s shooting stage.

The success of Paper Heart really relies on one’s interest in Yi and Cera, regardless of whether one believes or goes along with the their ‘blossoming’ romance, because Yi is a very odd person whose mannerisms sometimes hover around cartoonish.

Is she a bit slow? Is she really that wacky? Does she really believe she’s incapable of love? And what aspects of her uber-nerdy personality does Cera find so fascinating?

The documentary segments are meant to elaborate on and provide contrast against the steps and awkwardness Yi and Cera face as the two fall for each other, and Cera becomes infuriated with the intrusive camera which Yi insists must be present, wherever they are.

For the pair to succeed as a couple, director Nicholas Jasenovec (played by actor Jake M. Johnson) and the couple have to set some hard ground rules, or the whole endeavor’s been a bust. There’s little doubt how the film will end, which is why the whole tension-and-reconciliation finale is an obvious conceit, but Paper Heart is more than a low budget vanity project made by two leads who were a real-life couple during production.

The overall tone is actually quite cute, and while one can spot the artifice early on – the only way the poster art photo could’ve been taken is if a stills photographer was waiting in the same alley where the couple was making their ‘impromptu’ escape from the camera crew – the film, as a genre hybrid, really works.

The DVD’s making-of featurette makes it quite clear how challenging it was for Yi to not only act for the first time, but be a documentarian. The outtakes (contained in the “Paper Heart Uncut” featurette) reveal a hugely awkward Yi, verbally stumbling and muttering clunky tones in place of clear questions to elicit personal, engaging replies on questions spanning people’s first loves, staying in love, and lost loves.

Director Jasenovec and his editing team kind of pulled off a miracle by getting just enough meat from the Q&As to create docu-vignettes, as well as short dramatic episodes between Yi, Cera, the film unit, and advice from their friends and Yi’s family.

Interpolated into the film’s structure are some puppet shows co-designed and co-executed by Yi – string-manipulated cut-outs on a paper and cardboard background – that add a lot of whimsy to her fantasies on love, as well as her preference on how her relationship with Cera ultimately should conclude the film. The camerawork is deft, the editing razor-sharp, and the music score (written and co-performed by Yi and Cera) intimate and affectionate.

Even if the cameos in the first half were to be excised, Paper Heart is a light, clever mediation on love using a few tricks of the trade to give the topic a fresh spin, and the narrative drifts are kept in balance by the documentary vignettes with subjects who are genuinely appealing.

The deleted scenes gallery is a mix of small scenes that could’ve been retained but were removed for pacing issues, as well as material dropped because of tone (such as a recent widow in a seniors home), redundancy, or just plain uselessness. (The last deleted scene is particularly strange: Yi and actor Johnson conversing about love while stepping on dangerous chunks of wood, tires, and sharp rubbish in a ruined building. Who thought that one up?)

There’s also an archive of a few live musical performances by Yi, and a series of bonus Q&As with comedians on love. The latter is actually a batch of dryly funny promo teasers for the film, with comedians Paul Rust, Jason Ritter (The Education of Charlie Banks), Bill Hader, Bobcat Goldthwait. David Krumholtz, Demetri Martin, Paul Scheer, and Ron Huebel who play-up their respective goofball personalities in order to end each segment with an uneasy Yi. The best belongs to Huebel, who remains convinced Yi shares his gender in spite of the director’s protestations: “Rob – Charlyne’s a woman… What? Charlyne’s a woman? No, I’ve known you for two years and you’re like a little Asian dude. Show them your dick.”


© 2009 Mark R. Hasan

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