Paper Heart: Acting without Acting

Paper Heart: Acting without Acting

Now that we’re all over being mad at Michael Cera for not immediately jumping at the chance to film an Arrested Development movie, we can go back to appreciating his staid, self deprecating persona. The only problem is the fact that it seems like Cera, since becoming something of a downer heart throb, has picked up a bit of charisma – not too much though.

It probably has something to do with the characters that he plays – or character considering that each one bears a striking resemblance to the next – but Cera’s carved out a niche. Co-starring in Charlyne Yi’s Paper Heart, though, finds the actor exhibiting at least a modicum of his new found confidence. Alright, confidence is an over statement, but at least he’s not falling all over himself like Maybe’s in the room.

Prefigured as something of a non-fiction film, Yi and her "hybrid documentary," a term she coined, seek to follow the comedian across the country as she haphazardly searches for a proper definition of love. Yi, assumedly the character in the film and not the actress, sets out on this quest in something of an Arthurian fashion weaving from town to town on a quest.

The lack of definitive story arc begins to become problematic pretty early on. So to rectify that, in comes Michael Cera playing himself, kinda. It’s basically the character that he’s played in the Apatow world and Arrested Development, just a step more certain of himself. He is, after all, famous.

The first time the pair meets is at a party. And while the Nicholas character, played by Jake Johnson, buddies up to Cera, some of the scenes with Yi don’t ring true. It’s immediately apparent that each character – or person, who knows at this point – finds the other attractive. But the various stand-offish moments that Yi contributes come off as too odd to be genuine. Could she actually be that in real life.

Questions like that seem to be the point to films that take this particular approach to melding reality and fiction. All involved run the risk of contrived elements bleeding into real life or real life fading away leaving only some Hollywood confection of nonsense. In her attempt to work out new ground in a documentary style, Yi has arrived at some crossroads of art and life. Of course, she’s not the first to find this hallowed ground, just the latest to do so under the watch of the public eye.

Seeing as the film was ostensibly geared towards the indie douche rock set, its interesting to note that Paper Heart has a great deal in common with pretty much every reality show on television. So why does the demographic that was drawn to the film finds the likes of Big Brother to be abhorreny? The movie may have come off well, yet it raises some interesting questions about the dissemination of culture and how we perceive it. Or maybe it’s just that the indie intellectuals are really just as full of it as everyone else.