If documentaries necessarily involve a potential for abuse, simply because the perceived reality of film is so open to manipulation through editing and other tricks of the movie trade, documentary/fiction hybrids offer the opportunity for extreme confusion and manipulation. And, boy, is that the case here.
While the actual write-ups for “Paper Heart” were vague about the premise, a fellow LAFF-goer casually told me that it involved some kind of recreation of the romance between comedian/performance artist Charlyne Yi (“Knocked Up“) and the future of comic understatement, Michael Cera. Thus, watching the film, I became convinced I was seeing some kind of fictionalized retelling of a real-life romance. I am informed, however, in David Poland’s interview and from the post film Q&A that the relationship in the film is utterly and entirely fictional, so I assumed I was wrong again and the pair don’t date and never have. But after a bit more research I have information that indicates that Yi and Cera do have a relationship, just not in the one the movie. Except that the movie deals with what are Yi’s supposedly real feelings about love and how could that not affect her real or imagined romance with Cera? Of course, that’s none of my business and that’s probably a big part of the point.
The whole layers of fiction and reality thing got even more complicated when, at the post-screening Q&A, cowriter-director Nicholas Jasenovec stated categorically that story portions of the film were fictional while the documentary portions were not. Fine, but then a pre-teen boy who appears in the film opining on romance joins the discussion and, asked about he was found for “Paper Heart,” he and Jasenovic state that he was found through a casting process to join what appears to be a conversation with more or less random school children, and he is an actor.
When Jean Luc Godard uttered his most quoted line, that cinema was truth, 24 times a second, and every cut is a lie, I think this is kind of what he was talking about. But, so what?