So what do you know? As soon as I start going off about cookie-cutter female roles, here comes Charlyne Yi to blow them all out of the water. Maybe that's because she plays herself, mostly, in the pseudo-documentary Paper Heart, and she is completely adorable (as long as you adore comedic, inquisitive, goofy, self-effacing tomboys who still giggle at the mention of sex and are totally grossed out by kissing and love). The story begins as her friend Nick Jasonovec -- who is the director in real life but in the film is played by the amiable and crush-worthy Jake Johnson -- convinces her to explore her aversion to all things amorous and erotic by touring the country to find true-life romantics: married couples who have been together for 30 years, older bachelors contemplating the one who got away, a rough-and-tumble Harley gang spouting wisdom gained on the open road, etc. It seems Nick believes, deep down, that through this experience Charlyne will get over her neurotic nerves and just admit she wants to be in love like everybody else.
His hopes rise even higher when they encounter Michael Cera, either being himself or playing the character he always plays (who can tell them apart anyhow?). Cera is exactly the type of bashful nerd that can take a beating, the kind that secretly wants a girl to reject him so he can use his best asset -- persistence -- to win her over. It's not exactly happily ever after though, especially as Nick and Charlyne decide the budding romance has become a vital part of her journey and they must film everything at all times.
Despite the partially scripted sarcasm and awkwardness, all the actors in Paper Heart know exactly how cute we'll find them; but this is no reason not to enjoy it. Side by side with the actual cuteness of the real-life couples interviewed, and the crafty puppets and dioramas used to tell their stories, the film is aesthetically well compiled and more or less convincing. Charlyne and Michael, a real-life couple until their unfortunately timed recent break-up, charm each other the way two nerds are supposed to -- through goofy songs and drawings, silly puns and jokes gone awry, blushing and snorting through it all. It could easily be a Geek Girls Unite! moment, but the collaborators are just clever enough to leave the obvious questions aside (like maybe Charlyne doesn't believe in love because most boys don't like girls who only wear hoodies and apparently need a shower? Maybe she wasn't hugged enough as a child?). Instead they leave you to absorb the real lesson: no one should compromise how they want to be loved. True love happens on your own terms, even if not your timeline.
Paper Heart opens nationwide on Friday, August 7th.