Sunday, January 18, 2009
Sundance - Saturday, January 17
It's sort of a documentary, sort of a narrative. The lines are blurred by the structure, which includes portions where Yi is interviewing real people and experts about the notion of what love is, intermixed with narrative scenes in which Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera play versions of themselves, forming and developing a relationship. (To further complicate things, the two are dating in real life.)
Part of the story of the movie is about the making of the documentary, which is impacting the blossoming (fictional) relationship between Yi and Cera. In these scenes, the director, Jasenovec, is played by actor Jake Johnson, adding another level of abstraction.
Though more straightforward than On the Road with Judas, which I saw at Sundance a few years ago, the layers of reality and fiction could prove to be a little mind boggling if you think about them too hard. But, it's not necessary to unravel that mystery in order to enjoy the film.
Yi, Cera and Johnson are all interesting, sweet likable people/characters. The documentary parts take a very ambitious topic - defining love - and shed just enough light on it to be thought provoking, without trapping themselves in an impossible task. The narrative parts are entertaining, and woven in so seemlessly, many people will probably not even realize it's not entirely documentary. They play with this conceit in some lovely, subtle ways, such as when, at the end of their first date, Cera asks if the camera crew wants their microphone back.
During the Q&A everyone came up on stage. Most of the questions were directed at Jesenovec and Yi, with a couple directed at Cera. When asked how they came up with this structure, Jesenovec said that Charlyne wanted to make a documentary about love, and he felt that she should be in it because her unique perspective (she doesn't really believe she's capable of falling in love) puts the interviews in context. But they also knew she would need an arc - to somehow develop and change her view over the course of the movie - and at the same time, he knew she was too stubborn to actually change. So they scripted an arc for her! Charlyne didn't disagree with this description.
Cera was asked when he became involved in the project. He said that he became involved with it at the beginning, and stayed involved right up until today. He concluded by joking, "And now I never want to talk about it again." I don't know what it is about him, but he can say the most straightforward things and it just comes out hilarious.