By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Quirky semi-documentary about love is cute for teens.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although Charlyne is resistant to the idea of love, the film suggests that not only is it very real, but it (at least in the form of a long-term, happy marriage) is something that many committed couples have accomplished.
Positive Role Models
Many of the real-life couples featured in the movie discuss what it takes to have a long-lasting marriage and relationship. Charlyne realizes that to further her relationship with Michael, she must sacrifice aspects of the movie's documentary nature.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Charlyne and Michael flirt and hold hands; a couple of brief kisses. There are several interviews of couples discussing their romantic relationships and marriages. One same-sex couple mentions having sex in a car on their second date (non-graphic discussion).
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Language is limited to a few utterances of "s--t" and "bastard."
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Products & Purchases
Just Apple products: Mac computer and iPod. Young girls talk about how they love singer Chris Brown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
At a party, young adults (they all look over 21) drink and smoke cigarettes. Charlyne and her director also smoke cigarettes on a couple of occasions.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this semi-scripted, semi-documentary-style movie co-starring Juno's Michael Cera focuses on a young actress' search for the meaning of love. There's not much sexuality, since the focus is on romantic love, but there are a couple of scenes in which couples hold hands and kiss (sweetly, not passionately). For a PG-13 movie, there's not much language other than the occasional "s--t" and "bastard." The movie's message is ultimately positive: Love is out there, but it takes personal and emotional risk/commitment to find and feel it.
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What's the Story?
Young comedic actress/performance artist Charlyne Yi (best known as Martin Starr's zoned-out girlfriend in Knocked Up) sets out on the ultimate adventure: to find out whether love truly exists. Skeptical of the concept of love, Yi; her director, Nick (played by actor Jake M. Johnson); and a tiny film crew embark on a cross-country journey to interview professors, novelists, divorcees, and couples -- all to determine the mechanics of love. Along the way, she gets to know the smitten, amazingly earnest Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) and starts longing to be around him. But is it love?
Is It Any Good?
Yi is a refreshingly tomboyish Everygirl. Her incredibly expressive face lets you know exactly how she feels with every bulge of her eyes, downturn of her mouth, or lift of her eyebrows. Her skepticism about love makes the scenes with the geeky-but-adorable Cera sweetly predictable (the girl who doesn't believe in love discovers it on film for the very first time!), until she admits in front of him and her crew that she basically doesn't love him. Later, when she realizes how much she misses him, she begins to second-guess herself, which is, for a movie, pretty predictable.
The best part of PAPER HEART (a "hybrid" of documentary footage and scripted filmmaking) isn't the When Harry Met Sally-style interviews with couples, but enchanting little cardboard puppet shows used to depict the various love stories told in those interviews. Each interlude is magical, despite (or perhaps because of) the crude materials that look straight out of a preschool craft closet: aluminum foil, yarn, cardboard, and toy vehicles. Ingeniously crafted, the mixed-media, mixed-form film is charming and uplifting -- a welcome change from all the crass cynicism that's usually on display at the multiplex.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about adolescent and adult relationships, especially in light of the one couple who got married at 17. Do you think there are any rules about what makes a successful relationship?
Do you think this movie fits into the documentary genre, or should it be considered a comedy? Is it disappointing to know that the "director" in the movie was played by an actor?
What did you think of the puppet segments? How did they work (or not) with the rest of the movie?
- In theaters: August 7, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2009
- Cast: Charlyne Yi, Jake M. Johnson, Michael Cera
- Director: Nicholas Jasenovec
- Inclusion Information: Non-Binary actors, Queer actors, Latinx actors
- Studio: Overture Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language
- Last updated: April 2, 2022
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