Conversations: Monica Hesse Talks With Comedian Charlyne Yi of 'Paper Heart'

(By Jonathan Alcorn)
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Consider the high-concept bar officially raised: In the hybrid documentary "Paper Heart," comedian Charlyne Yi plays a comedian, Charlyne Yi, trying to make a film about her ambivalence toward love but getting sidetracked by a fumbly romance with actor Michael Cera, played by actor Michael Cera, who was once Yi's real-life boyfriend (she's coy on the relationship now). The awkward-chic project won this year's screenwriting award at Sundance and opened Friday.

Yi, a 23-year-old Californian best known for being one of the few women to infiltrate Judd Apatow's man-toddler posse -- she played stoner Jodi in "Knocked Up" -- recently telephoned to talk about the movie, which she also wrote, produced and designed cool puppets for.

-- Monica Hesse

So, how much of "Paper Heart" is fiction?

About 50 percent. Everything with the interview subjects is real, but the plot with Michael Cera is fiction. . . . But I honestly was kind of questioning the idea of love. I'd dropped out of college and I'd just been doing comedy, and I'm kind of like an old lady -- when I was 10 I learned how to knit -- so, most of my friends would go to clubs [to meet people], but I don't go to clubs or bars because I don't drink. So there was this fear of, how would I meet someone my own age?

It's not that I doubted other people's love. It was just about my own concern of whether it could happen to me.

What was it like playing a version of yourself in a movie?

I definitely tried to make it realistic. In order for the plot to move forward, I had to think, well, how would the character react, and how would I react, and then I'd try to find the middle ground. The character in the movie doesn't say too much about how she feels, but I'm overly ambitious and talky and say too much.

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