Jeff Daniels is Richard Dunn, a writer whose first book failed to sell one copy. Richard decides to rent a small house in the country to work on his next book, which also separates him from his troubled marriage to Claire (Lisa Kudrow). To make things a bit more strange, Richard has an imaginary friend, Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds). As Richard struggles to get his book started, and deal with his imaginary friend, he becomes friends with Abby (Emma Stone). A local teenager with problems of her own, the two find a connection through their outlook on life, and the obstacles they must overcome.
It’s the odd relationship between Abby and Richard which tends to make things uncomfortable at first. Richard’s intentions aren’t entirely clear at first, so the idea that he may be interested in Abby romantically give the proceedings that awkwardness. I couldn’t help but get a Lost In Translation feeling from the film, which works for me since I enjoyed that film so much. It’s just that the difference between Emma Stone and Jeff Daniels is a bit harder to grasp than the difference between Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray. Eventually we begin to understand where Richard is coming from in regards to Abby, changing what was awkward to something much more sweet.
What works so well is the way the two characters bond. They have more in common than they’ll ever realize, and the subconscious way they connect feels natural. Although Richard is much older than Abby, all his quirks and eccentricities place him on the same level mentally. He’s too immature and Abby is wise beyond her years, causing them to meet somewhere in the middle. Without really trying to affect the other, both characters grow and learn from their experiences together.
I’m sure there’s a number of films that Paper Man resembles, Lost In Translation being just one. Since the entire theme seems familiar, we have to rely on the performances of the actors to really capture our attention. This role was earlier in Stone’s career, but she really steals the show. She has a few moments in the film that are extremely powerful and it’s not a surprise that her career has come so far in just a few years. It’s been a very long time since I have seen Jeff Daniels in anything, Dumb and Dumber would have been the last, so I don’t have much to compare with. This character seems like the intelligent half of his character from Dumb and Dumber though. They seem to share some of the same traits, but Richard gets to be much more interesting and less annoying. Lisa Kudrow, playing Richard’s wife Claire, didn’t really measure up to everyone else. Towards the end of the film, her performance picks up, but the early going seemed flat.
To be warned, this is one of those films where nothing really seems to be happening. Just because it looks that way doesn’t make it a fact though. All the characters change and grow, they just don’t have to announce it to us. There are some moments that are very obvious, but many of them are just things you slowly realize. It’s very natural and realistic. There’s no ah-ha moments, with characters suddenly changing their behaviour. They’ll still need to work on their lives as they move forward, what we get to watch are the initial changes that put them on the right path. The story offers up a couple of surprises, even one that I never saw coming, and I think it helps the viewer better understand how Richard and Abby make their connection. If you’re willing to look a little deeper to enjoy a film, Paper Man is sure to entertain.
Under the marquee – Will