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Review: Paper Man

Paper Man
7 10

PLOT: Richard (Jeff Daniels), a middle-aged, depressed novelist heads to a cabin on the east coast to write his next novel in solitude with his longtime imaginary friend Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds). While there, he meets a mysterious, lonely young teenager (Emma Stone) who is also missing something in her life. Over the course of the film, the two forge an unlikely friendship.

This film was reviewed as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival

REVIEW: I was pretty anxious to check out Paper Man, the opening night film at this year’s L.A. Film Fest. With a well-rounded cast that included that also included Lisa Kudrow and Keiran Culkin, as well as Ryan Reynolds playing yet another superhero (this time an imaginary one), this film was loaded with potential. The wildcard here was the first time writing/directing husband and wife duo of Keiran and Michele Mulroney, scripters of the notorious JUSTICE LEAGUE screenplay.

Given that last bit, I was excited to see how they’d handle superheroes. But a few minutes into the film, it was pretty clear that in the crafting of this flick, comic books were the last thing on their mind.

We open with an animated opening credit sequence that borrows unashamedly from JUNO, as our protagonist, Richard (Daniels) and his wife (Kudrow) descend upon an isolated cottage in a small east coast town. Richard is a struggling writer with a slight case of OCD (amongst other problems). It is apparent almost instantly that his relationship with his surgeon wife is beyond fractured- ice cold to the point that, when speaking to others, he refers to her simply as “The Doctor”. It’s an appropriate title, given that her role in the marriage has devolved into her taking care of his every physical need. See, Richard has much growing up to do, and has never fully taken care of himself. Every time he needs to get himself out of a jam, his longtime imaginary friend, Captain Excellent swoops in to save his day. It’s a formula that may have worked for Richard as a child, but now in middle age, his continued reliance on Captain Excellent has found him sliding deeper into an isolated state.

Enter Richard’s polar opposite, Abbey (Emma Stone), a lonely but wild teen in the same small town who, as a result of a tragic incident in her past, has grown up way too fast. Like Richard, something is sorely missing in her life, something Richard may have the key for.

Despite the gushy and somewhat formulaic plot, the film packs a surprising amount of laughs and originality. The acting is solid all around, with Stone in easily her finest role to date. Kudrow shines as well, taking her career in a new, more serious direction. Reynolds too flies high in all his quirky comic glory, but the budgetary limitations of the pic (production values are extremely low) seem to have eliminated the ability for him to perform any traditional superhero feats.

The direction by the Mulroneys is the film’s most obvious flaw. Visuals are sloppy and bland (with a tacky score to match), and after the film’s sluggish first act, I was ready to throw in the towel and cry wasted potential. But let’s face it, I had nothin’ better to do, so I stuck around. And sure enough, throughout the course of the film, a small miracle happened…the thing started to grow on me. The film took unexpected turns, characters made unexpected decisions, and some beautiful relationships began to blossom (awww).

In the hands of more accomplished directors, this film really could have turned some heads. One has to wonder if the Mulroneys demanded they direct this thing, (or if brother Dermot had some influence), because they really felt visually lost at times. Still, on the merits of the script alone, the film succeeds. The comedic and fantasy aspects of the film co-exist nicely with the more sentimental and dramatic elements. No easy feat.

RATING: 7/10




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