Paper Heart (US - BD RA)
Gabe's a little bit confused by this docudrama, but still quite heart-warmed
Actress/comedian/musician Charlyne Yi has never been in love, and she’s not sure she believes the concept even exists. She takes to the streets with her friend and director Jake Johnson, and a small film crew to ask normal Americans about the ‘l’ word. After the crew visits a comedian party to pose the question to professionals, Yi meets Michael Cera, the popular star of awkward teen movies like Super Bad and Juno. Unexpectedly, the two start a relationship, which then becomes a part of the film, much to the budding couple’s chagrin.
I’m not sure if I buy half of the documentary aspects, and I’m also not sure I’m supposed to. So much of it feels so staged and practiced. I spent so much time trying to figure this out I feel I missed the point of the exercise. The early parts of the film becomes a game of spot the celebrity, especially the first real ‘personal’ scene with Charlyne Yi, where she goes to a party, and eventually meets Michael Cera. The following development of their relationship is the most clearly staged element of the film. Even if things occurred as presented, they’ve obviously re-constructed these moments. These scenes are cute, yes, doubtlessly, but come on, this can’t be real, right? Camera angles, mic placement, it’s staged. The friend I watched the film with called it ‘Live Ugly Betty Dating’, which is a better point than I’m guessing he intended it to be. Most of us are practically indoctrinated by reality dating shows, which have been around almost as long as television itself, and most of us know that much of the supposed spontaneity in these shows is processed, staged, and restaged. I doubt there’s anything director Nicholas Jasenovec could do to keep his audience from making assumptions like these.
(PS: take a trip to the ‘extras’ section for the ‘truth’)
But now I feel like I’m being punked, and this paranoia is attacking my low criticism self esteem. Perhaps Paper Heart is Yi and Jasenovec’s statement on the fallacy of dating for the cameras. Perhaps the fact that I’m taken in by Cera and Yi’s awkwardly budding relationship is the butt of their clever joke. The other part of the film, the part that is clearly not staged, at least from the standpoint of dialogue, is more easily and obviously read. It’s also a little bit hackneyed, or at least it’s not particularly insightful. The only thing I managed to glean from Yi’s man on the street stuff (which is very similar to Bill Maher’s Religulous) is that most average Americans believe in love. At least they believe in love when asked questions on camera. Viewers with expert Facial Action Coding System knowledge might have something to say about the truth of these statements, but the filmmakers do not. Yi and Jasenovec add some tasty twee flavour through adorable paper puppet vignettes that reenact some of the interviewee’s tales of love.
Paper Heart doesn’t benefit greatly from a high definition release, but there’s very little negative to say concerning the transfer. Things only look at good as the available lighting. Some interviews are lit brightly by the crew, but most are source lighting, and some of the outdoor stuff is underlit enough to feature some pretty thick black grain. Overall the look is very natural, with full-bodied and solid colours, but no major pops, and reasonably sharp details. Focused viewers will notice some decent textures that would be smoothed over in standard definition, but the lack of edge-enhancement is a big plus on some shots. Artefacts are minimal, mostly found in fuller warm colours, which display a little bit of general noise.
As per the usual rule of documentaries, such stuff doesn’t make for great surround sound material, but Paper Heart is just stylistic enough to feature some stereo and surround. Full on Dolby TrueHD (misspelled TruHD on the box) 5.1 is definitely overkill, though. The puppet reenactments feature a few fun digital catalogue sound effects, and some of them even make their way into more than the center channel (thunder, car engines). The location establishing shots feature minor surround elements too (listen for that back channel motorcycle), but overall we’re talking a largely centric affair. Yi’s music is an integral part of the film (it’s kind of her ‘thing’ on stage), and is presented aurally centric when she or Cera are playing on screen, but warmly stereo when coming from an off screen source. The music adds a bit to the otherwise thin LFE track.
The extras begin with ‘ Paper Heart Uncut’ (7:30, HD), which is basically a blooper reel of Yi forgetting her interview questions, or at least stuttering through them. Audiences will either find themselves annoyed or enamored with Yi after this. I’m more on the enamored side. ‘The Making of Paper Heart’ (10:45, HD) is a part retrospective interview with Yi, part raw behind the scenes footage. This answers some of my ‘real or not real’ questions. Turns out my assumptions were correct, and that the character scenes were staged. That’s a load off. I guess my review looks kind of lame now. I probably should’ve noticed that Jasenovec was using a different name during his scenes. Anyway, this is followed by a collection of four of Yi’s live musical performances (6:30, HD), a ‘music video’ with Yi and Cera (1:40, HD), eight extended comedian interviews (26:00, HD), many recorded for sales purposes, 17 deleted scenes (31:00, HD), and trailers. There’s a deleted animated sequence I wish would’ve stayed in the film over the credits or something.
Is it obvious I didn’t know what to say about Paper Heart? Because this was an oddly difficult review. In my defense, it is a hard to place film, and is doesn’t cover any previously uncovered bases, but damn if it isn’t a sweet and adorable little film. I can’t possibly imagine a situation where I’d watch it again, but I certainly recommend the film, especially to anyone familiar with Charlyne Yi’s comedy/music stylings. The fact that I was at least slightly convinced the Yi and Michael Cera love story was real definitely says something in the film’s favour. This Blu-ray version of the film looks spotless, but not particularly outstanding, and the uncompressed audio track is pretty centric. Standard DVD customers need not worry about what they’re missing. The extras are adorable, but brief. I could’ve really gone for a commentary with the stars and director.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 1st December 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Paper Heart Uncut, The Making of Paper Heart, Live Charlyne Yi Musical Performances, 'Heaven' Music Video, Love Interviews, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Nicholas Jasenovec
Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, Derek Waters
Genre: Comedy, Documentary and Romance
Length: 88 minutes
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