by Laura Tucker
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To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure through most of this film whether it was a documentary or mockumentary. I finally decided it was indeed a real documentary, as I don’t think that level of uncomfortableness could be faked or acted. That was real honest emotion, and that’s what you’re going to get when you set out to make a documentary about love and decide to focus on someone’s personal relationship, real or implied.
Comedian, musician, and actress Charlyne Yi sets out in this documentary to find out about love. She claims to have never fallen in love and wants to find out more about it, perhaps to understand it more. She and filmmaker Nick Jasenovec set out to film her interviewing several people across the United States to get their opinions. In between, they work in Charlyne being filmed documentary-style in social situations.
In the official explanation of Paper Heart, they describe it as a “hybrid documentary” with a blend of fiction and non-fiction. They are accentuating the documentary with a “fictional storyline.” In fact, Jasenovec doesn’t even appear as himself in the film. He’s “played” by Jake Johnson. She what’s real and not real? What’s the storyline?
Towards the beginning of filming the documentary, Charlyne goes to a party with Nick and meets actor Michael Cera. It’s obvious he’s enamored with her, but having never been in love, she’s very slow to recognize it. The story is set up in the way that Jasenovec is trying to get his two friends together. They eventually do have some uneasy dates, and even kiss in front of the camera, and begin dating, as their friendship continues to grow.
There are points where Mike becomes agitated, quite agitated, with the intrusion of the cameras on his and Charlyne’s relationship. It was during these moments that I felt it was more ducumentary than mockumentary. I know he’s a great actor and all, and I’ve been a fan of his since Juno, but we’re so used to seeing him comedically and not dramatically, that it did appear very realistic, and I still have my doubts. Reportedly he and Charylne are friends and have been rumored to be more, but she claims they’ve never been anything more than friends.
The film shouldn’t be about trying to figure out what’s real and not, though. It should be about love, and is, but I can’t keep from turning it into a romantic mystery. Charlyne does a great job getting to the bottom of this whole love thing. She doesn’t necessarily get any answers, but does present several different interviews with those that are in love, psychologists, biologists, divorce court lawyer and judge (who happen to be in a relationship themselves), and even kids on a playground. One woman who has been married for over fifty years suggests all men should get Harleys to make their women fall in love with them.
I suppose it doesn’t matter if Charlyne and Mike are or were in love. It’s clear no matter what that they have a lot of fun together, care a lot about each other, and respect each other. And you know what, Charlyne? That’s love, whether or not there are romantic feelings attached.
Laura Tucker Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack, and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, and is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com
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