Overture Films announced this month that they will be distributing the indie-soft mockumentary Paper Heart, which follows Michael Cera's real-life old lady, Charlene Yi, on a quest to understand love (a journey that, in onscreen life, leads her right to Cera).
If you happened to be paying more attention to the Presidential Inauguration than the Sundance Film Festival last January, you may have missed news that the film garnered a very positive response--pocketing the Best Screenplay Award--and not just because of offbeat, so-hot-right-now star cameos by Cera, Seth Rogen and Demetri Martin.
Why? IndieWire's Steve Ramos points at Yi:
If the great comedian Bob Newhart had an Asian American love child it would be Charlyne Yi. She's the drollest comic working today and her deadpan style makes the comic documentary "Paper Heart," premiering in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, a fresh, irreverent road comedy.
...and while my heart bursts (as always) every time Cera so much as says "um," the teaser leaves me with not even an inkling to go see the film when it hits an eclectic theater near me. Worse, I now find myself stuck on a question I neither want to ask nor answer, and here it goes:
So many reasons to love her, as many of you probably do: She's Asian-American. She's a comedienne. She's left-field and quirky, geeky and unafraid, doesn't ching-chong jokes for easy laughs, doesn't get fussy about her sloppy hair and moon face. The "New Kings of Comedy," who I hail to, have championed her success. And I'm pretty sure that Jen loved her as an affable stoner in Knocked Up (prepare for an "Ed. Note" if I'm wrong about this)--and save for the one Yi exception, everyone knows I'm a freakin' sucker for affable stoners!
But something in me (perhaps the something that can't forget seeing her do criminally bad improv in Silverlake) doesn't see her genius. It doesn't "aww" when she scrunches up her wee little Yi nose. It won't respond to the perma-grin that spreads across her face, like that other mediocre funnyman-of-the-moment Jimmy Fallon, whenever she's delivering a flatironed laugh line. It doesn't believe that her fun, fidgety shifting comes from the inside, that it's all her own, instead of borrowed from her infectious boyfriend.
I don't buy her deadpan. I don't gobble her shifty comedy shuffle, which works so well for her male counterparts, when their off-script mumbling alone is enough to make their movies memorable. Does that make me sexist? Racist? Or just grumpy? I don't really know.
All I know is that I just don't get Charlene Yi. But I really wish I did.
[Diana Nguyen writes for DISGRASIAN.com]