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Is your love glass half-full or half-empty? Charlyne Yi and director Nick Jasenovec attempt to play with our emotions in the mockumentary, Paper Heart.
Capitalizing on the trendiness of the mockumentary format that's popping up everywhere like mushrooms is Paper Heart, the love-child of musician/comedian/actor Charlyne Yi, in collaboration with director Nick Jasenovec. Paper Heart is arguably a mockumentary, or a parody of a parody of a parody, on Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera's actual relationship –- they are really going out, so people tell me, but who knows? Interspersed between sequences where the camera/crew follows Yi and Cera's developing romance and eventually annoys them (surprise, surprise) are interviews with actual people in different cities, sharing their love stories.
Such a premise certainly does not put the film in a good light. The quirky girl persona, with or without glasses, rimmed with nothing but awkwardness, has become tiresome, and even saying it is tiresome is tiresome. Add to that awkwardness a claim to not be able to love -- hence the irony and wonderfulness of the burgeoning romance with Cera on the one hand, and the impulse to hear people's love stories from all over on the other hand –- and the sitcom arc of emotional breakdown/conflict and resolution at the end, and well...
The "making of," behind-the-scenes piece, like its fraternal twin, the mockumentary, has become so widespread and overdone as to provoke nothing but an "eh." While watching Paper Heart, I found myself slightly recalling Enid and Ghost World, but the film and Yi are nowhere near as cynical. And maybe that is the problem since I think I have grown too cynical. In short, Paper Heart is cute, sometimes funny, sometimes "eh."
To make me less of a total drag, I did laugh at times with the audience, who clearly adored everything about the film. In addition, Cera is dead-pan endearing, as is Yi, though at times she plays the slacker card a bit too much. The chemistry between Yi and Jake M. Johnson (playing the role of actual Paper Heart director Jasenovec) is commendable and makes you curious enough to tag along for most of the ride. Some of the actual people whom Yi interviews are actor and musician friends, such as Seth Rogen ("Your love glass is half full"), scientists, an Elvis impersonator, a group of children, among others. The semi-improv comedy from these interviews is a hit-or-miss.
I do have to say that the puppet reenactments of some of the interviewees' love stories (design and execution by Yi) were interesting to alleviate the mockumentary form played to its traditional hilt.
But the Q&A was even more interesting: David, one of the children interviewees in the film, a bit of a smart-aleck who spews out advice too astute for his age, joined Yi and director Jasenovec. Without any announcement -– as that was the point -– Yi also had her Glass Beef band mate Paul Rust (decked out in a wig, glasses, backpack and the same clothes that Yi was wearing) replace Yi while she "went to the restroom."
Afterwards, Glass Beef played a short set at the LAFF lounge, which further uncovered more of the Yi phenomenon about which I had no knowledge. There were some Yi fans in the audience and I proceeded to ask them what she is about: she performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, is involved with several bands, and was great in Knocked Up in a supporting role. I became more curious about her comedy performances, but as Yi told me, she will not be doing comedy performances until perhaps in August.
However, I think the Glass Beef set gave some hints as to what her comedy could be about. Yes, they performed songs including "You Smell Like Christmas" from the film (or yelled them would be more accurate), with a White Stripes-minimalism of just a guitar and drum kit. But the set/performance also involved Yi throwing a kind of cardboard poster around the stage and inadvertently hitting someone (which was actually pretty funny) -- and being very apologetic. Most unforgettable was Rust, alternating vocal duties with Yi, really grooving out with Cirque du Soleil-like flexibility that would not necessarily befit a frontman, but somehow worked. Hilariously.
Clearly, Glass Beef itself has some mockumentary-ness that I could better appreciate.
Date Posted: 7/3/2009