before the closing credit which says this film was made with the assistance
of the Sundance Institute, you could tell that this movie was made
specifically for film festival approval. Full of quirky touches, miserable
characters, dark secrets and imaginary friends, Paper Man is trying
so hard to be artistic and deep that it forgets to simply be good and
Paper Man is a
movie written for film critics and professors, not film-goers. Which in
itself does not necessarily make a movie bad, but when you limit your aim so
drastically, you have to be damned sure you’ve got the right stuff to
receive that kind of acclaim. There is nothing worse than art for art’s
sake when that art is not particularly accomplished.
Daniels plays Richard Dunn, the author of an overlooked first novel who
moves up to a remote cabin for solitude to work on the follow-up book
for which apparently no one is waiting. Yet, he
has a monumental case of writer’s block. Literally, he is there for weeks
and never makes it past the first line in the book (in fact, the only switch
he makes in all that time is obsessively changing the lead character’s name
over and over.) Even at the very end of the movie, at which point he has
supposedly finally gotten himself together, he has still apparently
only written half a page. Perhaps the dude should consider a change in
However, due to a friendship with a younger woman (Emma Stone), he is
finally able to move past his massive store of neuroses, repair his strained
relationship with his wife (Lisa Kudrow) and finally get his creative juices
flowing, at least a bit.
not exactly the world’s most original story idea – hell, Paper Man
star Jeff Daniels played essentially the same blocked
writer character in last year’s similarly titled but lighter-vibed
The Answer Man.
course, Richard is beyond mere quirkiness, he often seems borderline
insane. He is the type of offbeat movie character who moves all the
furniture from his house to the outside because it feels “wrong,” builds a
(very uncomfortable looking) couch made up of unsold copies of his first
book and hires a young girl to be a babysitter even though he has no
children. If all this wasn’t odd enough, ever since he was seven years old
he has been getting life advice from an imaginary superhero named Captain
Excellent (Ryan Reynolds). Despite Reynolds’
front and center appearance in the marketing of the movie, his character is
barely in the film, and he’s a figment of another character’s
imagination to boot.
There is such a fine line between being an art house eccentric and a
said, if there is a saving grace to this movie, it is the relationship
between Richard and Abby – the younger girl played by Stone. In Abby,
Richard finds something of a kindred spirit, a fellow lost soul who was
touched by tragedy (she watched her sister drown when she was only eight),
is mistreated by her tough guy boyfriend (Hunter Parrish) and constantly
followed (almost stalked) by a smitten old friend (Kieran Culkin).
Richard and Abby bond over literature, origami, the simplicity of making soup and
past tragedies and soon she becomes almost a daughter figure to him.
(Thankfully, this relationship is kept completely platonic other than
miscommunication.) Stone takes on this cipher of a character and brings out
the heart in her and Daniels never seems so involved in the film as when he
is working with her.
film was written and directed by first-timers Kieran and Michele Mulroney. They are the brother and sister-in-law of actor Dermot Mulroney. Kieran has
also had a long if somewhat undistinguished career as a character actor. He may be best remembered for accusing George Costanza of “double-dipping
his chip” in a classic episode of Seinfeld.
Paper Man does
show them to have some talent as writers and directors, but I’m not going to
lie, this is not a very good film. Hopefully it can be chalked up to first
feature jitters, but Hollywood can be a very unforgiving place, you don’t
always get a second chance. There is enough promise in Paper Man
that I hope that they do get that shot, but I also hope they take better
advantage of the opportunity than they have here.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: January 18, 2011.