Sweet, winning "Paper Heart" is Yi's breakthrough
“Paper Heart” is a quirky, sweet and delightful romantic comedy that’ll have you believing in love and also falling in love with an engaging new actress in Charlene Yi, who delivers a breakthrough comedic performance essentially playing a version of herself. Her goofy, honest charm is the film’s highlight, even if its leisurely, plotless style doesn’t always work smoothly.
Charlene Yi says she doesn’t believe in love, based on her own failures at romance. So she embarks on a cross-country quest across America interviewing a myriad of eclectic people on a subject she doesn’t quite fully understand herself. As she and her good friend and director Nick (Jake Johnson) search for answers and advice about love, Charlyne visits with friends and strangers, scientists, bikers, romance novelists, and children to see if it truly exists. However, shortly after they begin filming, she meets actor (“Superbad”) and the two begin a relationship, most of which takes place on camera. As she continues to pursue love with urgency, she runs the risk of losing her relationship with Michael and possibly .
“Paper Heart” is one of the freshest, smartest and most original romantic comedies seen in ages, largely due to the likable appeal of Yi and her unforced chemistry with Cera, both of whom play versions of themselves in pseudo-documentary style. The film’s view of love is unconventionally fun and remarkably unsentimental, a trait lacking for most films in this genre. Not everything in the offbeat, low-budget film works perfectly, but it works better than most romantic comedies these days.
Cera and Yi make for one of the year’s most believable couples in “Paper Heart,” and their for the camera also helps, providing for some amusing moments – in one, Cera pretends to get up and leave a date they have in a restaurant only to return a few moments later. Yi’s interviews are also entertaining though some of them are awkwardly handled under an uneven, improvisational feel.
Yet most of the most memorable, humorous moments of “Paper Heart” come in interludes following selected interviews by which Yi tells their love story via cheap, cardboard models. Initially they’re a bizarre, baffling addition, but once the audience realizes their importance to the story, they’ll enjoy them more with each occurrence.
Cera is seemingly the perfect to be paired with the tomboyish Yi, and his gentle, mellow wackiness suits the film perfectly and is a reminder of why we liked him so much in “Superbad” (and can forgive him for the dreadful “Year One”). Actor Jake Johnson plays director and friend Nick, likely a version of actual director and co-writer Nicholas Jasenovec, and also shares some fun scenes with Yi.
But it’s Yi who's the highlight of “Paper Heart” and the California-bred musician, comedian and co-writer of the film delivers one of the year’s breakout performances, who has somehow been unknown to many audiences outside the Los Angeles area. Her kooky sensibility and hilarious, goofy laugh give the film a strong backbone, even when the film meanders in its last section and you have a good idea of how this will all turn out. Even with that, the final cardboard model story is one of “Paper Heart’s” most animated, noteworthy moments and one you won’t soon forget (it involves Yi, Cera and a motorcycle).
“Paper Heart” gives hope to the romantically challenged, that there is someone for everyone, while also giving hope to the , a genre that’s needs a good shot in the arm. Yi gives an auspicious performance that should win her and her film a large following of devoted fans.