'Paper Heart' premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, where it was received rather tepidly by audiences (but did manage to win a screenwriting award). It just felt like a movie that was made specifically for the festival going crowd, a movie that possessed too much "indie charm" for its own good.
'Paper Heart' stars Charlyne Yi ('Knocked Up') who wanders about the country trying to find out what love means to people in a documentary fashion. Forever awkward, Yi asks people about their love stories, how they met, and how they've stayed together. These flashbacks are portrayed in the movie by rudimentary puppet shows where characters are cardboard cutouts moved by fishing line.
The interviews with people around the nation, and their individual stories of love are the most interesting aspects of the film.
Where the movie takes a turn for the worse is when it tries to portray a romance between Yi and indie regular Michael Cera ('Superbad') as something that is really happening. Director Nicholas Jasenovec gives us a documentary format of trying to find out the inner-workings of love in the first half of the film and then tries to do a one-eighty on us by focusing the bulk of the second half of the movie on Yi and Cera's faux-romance that does little to add to the film.
Yi is just way too quirky here and it becomes tiresome to watch her fumble about and giggle for no reason. Cera is exactly what you'd expect from him. He's much more likable here than Yi, but still his aloof, befuddled teen shtick is starting to wear a bit thin.
I'm not sure I really understood the point of 'Paper Heart' either. It's a conflicted film that feels unfinished. Sure, we get it, Yi and Cera are both awkward and they may or may not like each other, but what's the point of creating a faux-romance with both of them? Why hijack the much more interesting documentary about love and how it works or doesn't work, and instead follow through with a fake romance between the two leads that we don't care about?
The film feels forced and incomplete. It feels as if Jasenovec didn't have enough material from interviews about love, and decided to concoct a "what if" scenario with Yi and Cera. It may work if the movie made us care at all about their so-called relationship, but in the end you'll just find yourself wondering what it all meant, if anything. 'Paper Heart' doesn't seem to have any depth or meaning buried within it. It just seems like an exercise in awkwardness from the two most awkward actors out there.
'Paper Heart' has that gritty, sometimes raw, documentary feel to it, making it a challenge to judge when it comes to video quality.
The AVC-encoded/1080p transfer is solid, but nothing earth-shattering. With the documentary feel, come scenes with awkward or little lighting, bad contrast, and weird framing choices. Colors aren't given that great of a showcase here - most of them appear muted without solid definition. The image lacks crispness, and at times takes on a very soft appearance, which kills some of the fine detail. The best detail is had during the puppet scenes where every pen stroke of a character's puppet face, and every piece of entwined yarn hair is perfectly visible and richly detailed. The transfer also suffers from some not-so-minor artifacting like banding and micro-blocking which appear occasionally in the film. While I can deal with the somewhat soft picture and contrast issues that have more to do with the way it was filmed, I cannot overlook the digital anomalies that pop up from time to time. These should be kept at bay, at all costs. Especially on a new release like this.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio presentation is again, nothing spectacular, but it isn't as buggy as the video presentation.
As expected, the movie is extremely front heavy with its non-stop dialogue. Conversation, can be soft at times, as when Yi and Cera are on a date at a restaurant and the film crew is trying to "spy" on them. The subwoofer remains silent, but kicks in when it needs to. During the puppet scenes there's a moment with a motorcycle that really pumps out the bass. The soundtrack is presented well, but is a bit subdued without much encompassing feel from the surround channels.
'Paper Heart' can be genuine at times as it delves into the lives of people and what they think about love, but when the movie completely turns around and tries to portray a fake romance between Cera and Yi is when interest starts to wane. It's hard to really care about their "relationship," and it detracts from the message the film started out with. The slightly buggy video and ho-hum audio make this a rental and nothing more.