Comedian-musician Charlyne Yi claims she “doesn’t believe in love.” So the young performer and her friend, a filmmaker named Nick (director Nicholas Jasenovec casts attractive actor Jake M. Johnson as his avatar), hit the road with cameras in tow, chronicling a journey through romantic skepticism. But things gets complicated when Yi starts dating Cera (the actor’s real-life ex-boyfriend, in meta-celeb mode). Shaky-cam interviews with real middle-aged middle Americans are padded with shabby-cute puppet reenactments; in the dramatic portions, the famous couple tries to evade the cameras while out on dates, and Charlyne confers with her director—the fictional one—about the stresses the project is putting on her budding relationship.
Part documentary, part fiction and all cloying affectation, Paper Heart doesn’t seem to care about its subjects, whose insights are incredibly slight. As a scripted romance, it’s a nonstarter, thanks largely to Yi, a charisma-free black hole who continually sucks the whole endeavor down to the level of a nervous giggle. The movie’s only moment of real honesty comes when Cera inquires about the movie he’s appearing in. “Quirky comedy?” the actor asks dryly. “That’s just what America needs.” Right. Self-conscious sarcasm, however, doesn’t make twee-emo rom-com tittering any more lovable, or even remotely necessary.—Karina Longworth