Paper Man Film Review - an Official Selection of the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival

Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) is a writer trying to write his next great novel. Anyone acquainted with the creative process knows this can be daunting; especially if your most recent brilliant novel was a complete failure. And there is the small issue of a relentless case of writer’s block. His wife, vascular surgeon Claire (Lisa Kudrow) supports his effort the best she can for a non-artist, happily setting him up in a quaint isolated cabin where he can be close to Camp Hero, the place his next book actually happened, and a place where he can be creative. Meanwhile she drives back from the city every weekend to be with her husband.

Jeff Daniels (l.) & Ryan Reynolds (r.) in "Paper Man"

Plagued with OCD, Richard finds distraction in everything from pillows on the couch to the couch itself. Mostly he is distracted by the voice in his head. More than just a voice, Richard takes with him Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds), his imaginary embodiment of a perfect protector and muse that he has kept with him since the second grade. Richard maintains a love-hate relationship with the red, white and blue spandex clad Captain Excellent since there is a strong suggestion that the extraordinary manifestation may even do some of Richard’s writing for him.

Abbey (Emma Stone) is a teenaged loner who has a boyfriend that treats her badly and a reputation for being a bit crazy (must have something to do with the short time she spent hospitalized). She too has just one friend, Christopher (Kieran Caulkin) who has her back, advises her and promises to love her no matter what, which is exactly why she does not love him back.

Richard and Abbey happen upon each other after Richard takes to following her following puts out a garbage can fire that he watched Abbey start. Instead of scripted adult/adolescent confrontation over her act of vandalism, the childless writer asked Abbey to babysit for him. Undaunted, she agrees. Once she arrives to see that there is no child to babysit, she sticks around while he leaves the cabin for a couple hours. When Richard returns, he finds that Abbey has made soup from the few vegetables she found in the fridge, and strangely enough, a friendship is born – uncharted territory for both of them.

I really enjoyed this film; it was funny but weird. It was strange and awkward but blessedly original in its examination of human interaction and in how the mind can work for and against us. It is a gentle but powerful lesson that life is not a spectator’s sports. Real relationships are messy and painful and magically rewarding. Moreover, life is tactile, and one can’t expect to get more out of it than what one puts into it.

Paper Man was the opening film at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival happening now all over Westwood Village through June 28, 2009.

www.lafilmfest.com

 

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