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Paper Man

Indie But Lifeless

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Husband and wife team Kieran and Michele Mulroney make their directorial debut with this well-intentioned but ultimately lifeless indie film. Also written by the duo, the Paper Man hits all the right notes a quirky, indie comedy should but not necessarily in a good way.

Populated with a great cast, the film is inundated with trivial symbolism and archetypal characters. Fortunately the cast, especially Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone, save it from drowning into overbearing oblivion.

Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) is suffering a mid-life crisis of sorts. Under pressure to complete his second novel, he decides on a winter hibernation in a Long Island summer town. His wife Claire (Lisa Kudrow) makes unexciting trips during the weekend, and for the majority of his time, Richard’s only companion is his life-long imaginary friend Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds).

As he descends deeper into mental illness (he slowly moves all the furniture out onto the lawn) he meets local teenager Abby (Emma Stone). Telling her he needs a babysitter for a baby he doesn’t have, they soon realize they’re like-minded, struggling to get through their everyday lives. Soon they begin a purely platonic, but slightly illicit, friendship as they both attempt to overcome their deepest troubles.

Paper Man is quirky at it’s quirkiest. It’s not that the Mulroney’s don’t find an original way to push the story forward, but none of it feels honest. It just feels as if the film is going through the motions, with added eccentricity here and there to make it exciting.

The symbolism is also overbearing to the point of losing meaning. Richard rides a child’s bike around the town, signifying he’s no more than a child. That’s if the existence of Captain Excellent didn’t tip you off. Still, Reynolds is excellently cast as Captain Excellent, who ironically represents the cautious, perhaps adult, side of Richard’s psyche. He is the one who doles out advice and attempts to stop him from making bad decisions, like befriending the underage Abby.

In the end Paper Man doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before with the material. It’s an enjoyable, well-made film but it’s missing that precious heart that promotes a merely good movie to a great one.

The Mulroneys are very capable filmmakers and maybe next time they’ll find material that’s more original and closer to their hearts. Don’t count them out yet.