Paper Heart is a cinematic expression of the idea that awkwardness equals authenticity—that bad social skills and an inability to relate to others are hallmarks of "realness." Tracing the evolution of this idea would be an interesting exercise (John Cusack might have something to do with it), but instead, Paper Heart and its disingenuous, faux-documentary structure represent the pinnacle of self-absorbed twentysomething cinema to date.
The movie's heroine, Charlyne Yi, is a terminally graceless standup comedian who believes herself incapable of experiencing love. With the help of her producer/director, Nicholas (played here by Jake M. Johnson), she sets out to make a documentary about love, interviewing people who claim to be in it and scientists who study it, with the ultimate goal of finding out what she's missing.
But as Charlyne is diving horn-rims first into the gaping depths of her own navel, something happens: She meets a boy. Michael Cera—Charlyne's real-life boyfriend—shows up, and his presence in this film should come as no surprise (the keywords "awkward" and "navel" should've clued you in). She seems to like his dry wit. He, presumably, appreciates her childlike enthusiasm. Though the pairing of these two is clearly a genetic recipe for Asperger's, there are sparks—shy, stammering, eye contact-avoiding sparks.
Through all of this, the pretense is maintained that what we're watching is an actual documentary, the focus of which has shifted from Charlyne researching love to Charlyne experiencing love, or at least trying to. To that end, Charlyne's producer becomes an increasing presence in the movie, as his insistence on filming the details of her relationship with Michael places increasing pressure on the couple.
Paper Heart is like the CliffsNotes version of a Charlie Kaufman movie, soundtracked by an endlessly looping Jeffrey Lewis song, and coasting on a charm that's not as bountiful as its creators suppose. Men who refer to themselves as "boys" will probably enjoy it.