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Searching for love

Movies | Charylne Yi's film, like her film persona, is painfully awkward

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

Charlyne Yi, a 20-something comedian in Los Angeles, doesn't believe in love. The new movie Paper Heart, a blend of documentary and fiction, follows her attempt to discover what love is, and shines some light on love in the age of Twitter.

Yi travels the country, interviewing couples, divorcees, scientists, bikers, children, and even a Las Vegas wedding chapel Elvis. As the film develops, so does her budding relationship with Michael Cera.

Shy and occasionally hostile, Yi refuses to dress in anything but oversized button-downs or brush her hair. She is perpetually embarrassed, and her scenes with Cera are painfully awkward, which seems to be Hollywood's new version of funny. Let's table the whole dating thing and hustle her to a good therapist.

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The most poignant parts of the film are the interviews with real-life people as they struggle to describe the most profound and irrational part of their lives: their love. A couple together for 50 years boils their romance down to the sound of the purr of a Harley. A mean-looking barfly describes how he loves his wife, even when he's beating her. The viewer hopes, but isn't sure, he's kidding. An older couple, married as teens, tries to nail down the lightning strike of love that glued them together for life.

The film (PG-13 for some language) is perhaps the logical next step to ironic Twitter updates, Facebook pages, and reality TV. In fact, scenes can be described as Twitter updates: "Charlyne is watching an old man marry his mail-order bride in a Las Vegas wedding chapel and trying not to laugh. Fun!" The real problem is that Yi finds it easier to open up to millions of anonymous viewers than to know and be known by one very real and present man. It's no mistake that her decision to risk love with Cera coincides with stepping away from the cameras.


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