Friday, April 23, 2010

Movie with Abe: Paper Man

Paper Man
Directed by Kieran & Michele Mulroney
Released April 23, 2010

Movies about writers have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Even if there isn’t a coherent story, play, or film within a film at work, there is still some part of the writer’s mind which seeps out of his brain and onto the pages of the film’s screenplay. In this case, author Richard Dunne (Jeff Daniels) maroons himself in Montauk and brings with him his superhero creation, the spandex-clad Captain Awesome (Ryan Reynolds). Left to his own thoughts, Richard is kept company and constantly annoyed by a character he himself brought to life, externalizing his conscience in the form of a smirking blond superman.

The story in “Paper Man” is a familiar one, a story of a man so caught up in his own unproductiveness that he is unable to connect with his wife or most other people, for that matter. A chance meeting with a young girl named Abby (Emma Stone) permits him the occasional escape from loneliness, and the time he spends with only his thoughts is briefly interrupted by the light of youthful energy. The plot of “Paper Man” is not highly original and takes many predictable turns without offering genuine surprises in return. It’s hardly a deal breaker, however, since the movie includes a number of sharply written and memorable lines which elevate it from a forgettable take on a recognizable tale to a worthwhile and entertaining film in its own right.

The most wonderful part of “Paper Man” is the chance for actress Emma Stone to break out with a fiercely committed and enjoyable dramatic role. The 21-year-old has starred in comedies like “Superbad,” “The Rocker,” “The House Bunny,” and “Zombieland,” and here she proves that she can hold her own in a tight, small cast and handle more serious material deftly. Reynolds provides as much amusement as he can by milking all of his scenes for as much as they’re worth, doing the best he can to enhance a rather silly character. Jeff Daniels, the film’s questionable anchor, isn’t quite as serious as he should be, playing Richard as a hapless and clueless man with no real connection to reality. He should look to his own performance in “The Squid and the Whale” for the kind of acting that might have been more effective here. This is a movie about a man who excels when he puts himself on paper, however, and therefore it’s extremely fitting that the script should be its strongest asset.


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