September 24, 2009

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Paper Heart (PG-13)
A young hipster girl seeks — but doesn’t completely believe in — love in Paper Heart, the cutesy movie starring Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera.

Cera and Yi were (maybe) real-life boyfriend and girlfriend. (“The Internet” actually doesn’t have a straight answer for whether Yi and Cera are broken up or were ever together. Extremely reliable tabloid sources — Perez Hilton, for example — now have Yi saying they never dated.) Whatever their relationship, their likely friendship is perhaps why they effortlessly look salt-and-pepper-shaker cute together more or less the instant they meet. And even though Yi is a twitchy mess when it comes to boys and Cera is every character he’s ever played when it comes to girls, they are so adorable you want to put LOL Cat sayings over their head. I can haz indie soundtrack?

Charlyne Yi (Charlyne Yi) is shooting a documentary with her friend Nicholas Jasenovec (Jake Johnson, the only guy who appears to have a character name different from his own; Nicholas Jasenovec, confusingly, is the name of the film’s actual writer and director). She does not believe in the idea of love, true love, forever love, happily ever after love — whatever you’d call the love that a little Charlyne shown in home movies seemed to believe a stuffed Kermit doll felt for the stuffed Miss Piggy doll. She talks to her friends Seth Rogen (Seth Rogen) and Demetri Martin (Demetri Martin) about it and then sets off on the road to talk to “real” or whatever people about their loves and losses. There’s the Elvis who marries people in Vegas, the playground full of kids who suggest Applebee’s would make a nice date spot, the guy whose near-death experience makes him rethink his idea of who his “true love” is.

Along the way, Charlyne starts to build something like a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with Michael, a friend of a friend she meets at a party. They hang out playing musical instruments and telling awkward jokes and engaging in even more awkward making out — but is it love?

With different actors, “who cares” would be my resounding answer. But they’re both kind of fun to watch, even when engaging in behavior that in real life would cause those around them to make vomit-gag-noises. Charlyne is probably best known for her small role as the one stoner girl in the house of stoner boys in Knocked Up. And that’s the other thing that makes the movie interesting — Yi, at least as she portrays herself here, is the kind of girl who likes to be one of the guys. It is, if you’re not the kind of girl who blinds the guys with your sex appeal, not a bad way of getting to know and hang out with the guys. It can lead to the soft sell of slowly working up to girlfriend territory, after your love of sci-fi and potty humor helps you overcome whatever lack of confidence you have in your girlier attributes. It’s not something you often see in the movies — most one-of-the-guy girls either still look like Barbie dolls (just ones who wear baseball caps) or they are so minor as to be one-dimensional. Charlyne gives this girl depth, feelings, confusion, humor — and even if I feel about as removed from Yi and Cera as I do from the kids of Twilight, it’s still neat to see someone portray that part of this kind of girl’s life.

Like someone’s political idealist little brother, Paper Heart is more something I feel fondness for than great admiration. Aw, who’s the wittle wove birds, I want to say, ruffling this movie’s floppy hair while it squirms and tries to convince me that it’s a grown-up. That’s OK, kid, I want to say; don’t be in such a hurry to convince me there’s some greater truth about love here. This kind of thing is only cute when you’re young. B-

Rated PG-13 for strong language. Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec and written by Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi, Paper Heart is an hour and 28 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by Overture Films. It is playing at Red River Theatres through Thursday.