Have you ever had a really good conversation about love? It might have been brought on by one too many drinks at a party — where you never would have guessed it — but before you knew it, you’re in a bedroom talking with a group of people you may or may not know about love. What is it? Is it even real? Is love for everyone?
The new film Paper Heart takes the best and funniest moments of those conversations and fits them into a romantic comedy. What saves this movie from the pratfalls of a typical romance is its inventive mockumentary structure and its irresistible star and co-writer Charlyne Yi, whose scene-stealing cameo in Knocked Up as the stoner girlfriend Jodi is probably the only time you’ve seen her. Always smirking, as if on the verge of hysterical laughter (which she usually is), Yi is simply infectious.
Paper Heart begins with Yi in the middle of the Las Vegas strip asking a simple question, the same question you asked your fellow party-goers in that bedroom — What is love? This question is the catalyst for a film project. Yi’s friend Nick wants to make a documentary about her because she claims to not know what love is and believes she’ll never be in love. Their plan is to cross the country, talking to different people, and finding out what love means to them. They speak with biologists, bikers, a judge, a family law attorney and — in one of the film’s best scenes — a group of children in a playground, and each of these people offers their own version of love.
During these interviews, the subjects tell stories of love lost and found, all of which Yi acts out with hilariously low-budget figurines. It is impossible to listen to these stories and not think of someone from your own life, and that’s the beauty of a movie like this. Yes, it’s quirky and funny, but it also has a real heart and a wonderful idea — albeit a little too idealized — of what love is. It gets you thinking about love in your own life, just like real-life conversations about love do, and you’ll know exactly who you want to call or text as you walk out of this movie.
What makes Paper Heart truly unique is its structure. While the interviews are with real people, I believe Yi’s search for love is fictional. Yi’s friend Nick, who shares a name with the actual director and co-writer, is played by a man named Jake Johnson. Are you following this? Along the way, Yi meets a friend of a friend, Michael Cera, played by Michael Cera. The two begin to fall in love, and Nick insists on capturing every moment of it on film. What follows is Charlyne Yi being Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera doing his best Michael Cera, and it’s honestly hilarious.
Paper Heart was a big smash at Sundance, and it’s easy to see why. From its undeniably charming protagonist to its honest and beautiful portrayal of real love, Paper Heart is a film that will make you laugh, say “awww,” and think a little bit, and you don’t even need to drink to get a conversation started after.