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Paper Man

December 17, 2011

MY CALL:  There was nothing to the plot, but everything to the characters.  Fans of Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Daniels or Emma Stone should be pleased by this odd, moody, depressed-with-a-smile film. [B/B+]  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH:  Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love, Cyrus.  None of these bring quite the dark tone of Paper Man, but each has a healthy complement of redeeming qualities.

A motley cast and an awkward tone set an unsure-footed pace for this film…but I think I like it.

Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Daniels have an interesting dynamic.  Daniels plays a quirky, man-child writer that smacks of some of his previous roles, less mentally challenged than in Dumb and Dumber and a more insecure and jumpy than in Arachnophobia.  He has writer’s block and problems with his wife, making him “every writer ever depicted in a movie.” The writers likewise cater to Reynolds’ stylish character roots.  Of course, Reynolds often seems to play the same character whether he’s killing vampires in Blade Trinity, scamming on girls in Buying the Cow, or testing his quippy limits when he got started on Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place (sitcom).  In this case, he’s a quippy, dashing superhero with crime-fighting muscles produced by Daniels’ character’s subconscious.  The banter between the two makes for excellent synergy.

As I fail to find the point of this film, I enjoy some delightfully awkward scenes.  For example, Daniels’ fumbling attempt to catch a fish for dinner, his personal bouts with a hideous couch, and some disturbing outdoor feng shui.

But really, what’s the meaning of all this?  Perhaps, that friendships may form unexpectedly.  Daniels and Emma Stone (Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love), playing his babysitter even though he doesn’t have a child, develop an endearing chemistry.  Their characters seem to help each other mature past their irrational reservations.  She makes him soup and he makes her feel better about her unhealthy, late-teen relationship.

There was ultimately nothing to the plot, but everything to the characters.  The writing was impressive, clever, funny, and tamely off-the-wall.  Fans of any of the featured actors should be pleased by this odd, moody, depressed-with-a-smile film.

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