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Sundance: Is it love or is it 'love'?

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Adventureland_l

Adventureland_l

First, a P.S. to Owen’s experience of Adventureland: The guy sitting next to me at the same screening watched a basketball game on his iPhone until the woman at his side forcibly removed the thing from his hands and shut it down. I assume she knew him. But even if she didn’t, I’d acquit her in a court of law: The way I see it, the only excuse for turning on an electronic device while a movie runs is when anticipating a birth, a death, or a kidney donor.

And I’m not so sure about the kidney.

Funny thing is, the guy sitting next to me then proceeded to laugh only once, towards the end of Greg Mottola’s pleasant variation on his own Superbad, Zach Braff’s Garden State, and a fistful of other recent boys-to-men comedies in which a young mensch prevails in love and sex despite having no discernible biceps. (I know, I know, Owen feels otherwise.) And that was when the hero, James (nicely played by The Squid and the Whale’s Jesse Eisenberg with moves from the Michael Cera guidebook), punched another young man hard in, yes, the kidneys. To be fair, the moment was pretty funny — the gut pummel was a satisfying payback moment, especially after all that James, a recent college grad, put up with working a crap job at the title’s fleabag amusement park, crushing on a sad-faced beauty  and enduring the slings and arrows of the ’80s. I agree with Owen that Adventureland (pictured) exudes warmth and that the filmmaking technique shows finesse. But I’d add that the story itself is about as minimal as a shoulder-shrug, and mostly an ode to late-’80s suburbia and the simple pleasures of swigging vodka and toking joints. Which, honestly guys, wasn’t all that, and neither were the late ’80s.

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But if you’re a fan of the Cera approach to the comedy of manhood — and I am, I am,

I adore his representation of nerd-cool, biceps-lite masculinity — why

not spend time with the source himself? I was totally, weirdly charmed

by Paper Heart, a sweet/funny, half real and half fake, half

drama and half documentary riff on love, starring and co-created by

honorary girl-among-guys geek cutie Charlyne Yi. Yi’s got her own thing

going as a stand-up comic, performance artist, musician, and actor

(acting stoned, she stole hearts in Knocked Up). Plus, she’s an

ace maker of puppets. And working with director Nicholas Jasenovec

(with whom she co-wrote the script), she puts all those things

together. The premise (based on truth or fiction, we’ll never know), is

that Yi (or is it a fictional “Yi”?) doesn’t believe in love. She

doesn’t think she’s wired for the emotion. So she (played by herself)

and her director (played by Jake Johnson, just to mess with our heads)

travel across America interviewing real people about the condition. In

the course of which, at a local party, she meets Michael Cera (or is it

“Michael Cera”?), and for a while the two fall into a shy romantic

relationship. Which is documented, as part of Yi’s movie project, by

the “director.”

The real folks Yi interviews — long-married couples, a pool-playing

divorced gentleman, scientists, a big, grizzly dude in a biker bar,

little kids — are amazing in that way that only Americans have of

being utterly direct and at ease in front of a stranger’s camera and

microphone; then Yi ups the artistry by translating their stories into

puppet-driven tableaux. But the stuff between Yi and Cera is equally

riveting, not least because the two sustain their personas as “Yi” and

“Cera,” a “dating couple,” with such sharp discipline. (Are they or

have they ever really, really been an item? I really really don’t know,

and I like that I don’t.)

On some other blog, in some other non-Sundance universe, I’d have a

fine time analyzing the sexless, squeaky, bespectacled,

thrift-shop-couture tomboyishness Yi has adopted as her feminine

projection. (In fact, this “little girl” is a woman in her early 30s.)

On this blog, my heart belongs to Michael and Charlyne, sittin’ on a

couch, k-i-s-s-i-n-g as the camera rolls and Paper Heart tears at the borders between the public and the private, the staged and the sincere.

But if you’re a fan of the Cera approach to the comedy of manhood — and I am, I am,I adore his representation of nerd-cool, biceps-lite masculinity — whynot spend time with the source himself? I was totally, weirdly charmedby Paper Heart, a sweet/funny, half real and half fake, halfdrama and half documentary riff on love, starring and co-created byhonorary girl-among-guys geek cutie Charlyne Yi. Yi’s got her own thinggoing as a stand-up comic, performance artist, musician, and actor(acting stoned, she stole hearts in Knocked Up). Plus, she’s anace maker of puppets. And working with director Nicholas Jasenovec(with whom she co-wrote the script), she puts all those thingstogether. The premise (based on truth or fiction, we’ll never know), isthat Yi (or is it a fictional “Yi”?) doesn’t believe in love. Shedoesn’t think she’s wired for the emotion. So she (played by herself)and her director (played by Jake Johnson, just to mess with our heads)travel across America interviewing real people about the condition. Inthe course of which, at a local party, she meets Michael Cera (or is it“Michael Cera”?), and for a while the two fall into a shy romanticrelationship. Which is documented, as part of Yi’s movie project, bythe “director.”

The real folks Yi interviews — long-married couples, a pool-playingdivorced gentleman, scientists, a big, grizzly dude in a biker bar,little kids — are amazing in that way that only Americans have ofbeing utterly direct and at ease in front of a stranger’s camera andmicrophone; then Yi ups the artistry by translating their stories intopuppet-driven tableaux. But the stuff between Yi and Cera is equallyriveting, not least because the two sustain their personas as “Yi” and“Cera,” a “dating couple,” with such sharp discipline. (Are they orhave they ever really, really been an item? I really really don’t know,and I like that I don’t.)

On some other blog, in some other non-Sundance universe, I’d have afine time analyzing the sexless, squeaky, bespectacled,thrift-shop-couture tomboyishness Yi has adopted as her feminineprojection. (In fact, this “little girl” is a woman in her early 30s.)On this blog, my heart belongs to Michael and Charlyne, sittin’ on acouch, k-i-s-s-i-n-g as the camera rolls and Paper Heart tears at the borders between the public and the private, the staged and the sincere.

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