The ultimate meet-cute: Pseudo-doc’s appeal depends on your tolerance of twee

Your appreciation for Paper Heart, a doc/mockumentary about love, will be closely tied to your appreciation for quirk. Co-star Michael Cera is probably the best barometer: If you find his awkward stammering irresistible, the movie will likely resonate. If the thought of the Arrested Development star wooing an even more awkward comedienne is anathema to you, Paper Heart will be, too.

The film walks the line between reality and scripted romance, alternating between talking-head interviews of actual couples reflecting on their romantic lives and scenes of the budding, (presumably) fictional relationship between indie comic Charlyne Yi and Cera. Yi also throws in some homemade paper-cutout animations to flesh things out, adding to the deluge of quirk.

Still, it’s not as overbearing as it might sound. Yi’s enthusiasm goes a long way towards selling the animations, and her and Cera actually possess enough sweet, fumbling chemistry to make their relationship plausible.

The documentary setting is both a blessing and a curse for the film, though. The real-life interviews add a grounded, unforced sweetness to the proceedings, which makes the handholding twee-ness of the scripted segments easier to take. On the other hand, those same segments only emphasize how planned the relationship between Yi and Cera is. Everything from their meeting to the inevitable conflict feels rote, like they’re included out of obligation to rom-coms past.

Paper Heart has caught some flack for misrepresenting itself and misleading its audience, since (with the exception of the fact that actor Jake Johnson plays director Nicholas Jasenovec in the film) there’s hardly a wink to show that some elements of the movie are fictional. Without that straight-faced approach, though, the film might come across as smug, ironic or overly detached. It’s none of those things — it comes across as nothing if not sincere. Whether that sincerity and the aw-shucks cuteness that comes with it works for you or not, Paper Heart at least deserves some credit for trying something different.

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