With Summer blockbuster season coming to an end officially this weekend, it’s fun to re-visit some of the season’s heavy hitters. Jeff Daniels scored huge with HBO’s The Newsroom, and Emma Stone was remarkable in the aptly titled The Amazing Spider-Man. How great is it when you can find a movie with both of these amazing actors in it?
Paper Man, released in three theaters back on April 23rd, 2010, is a surreal comedy/drama in the vein of movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where reality blends with fantasy to make a surprising and unique film that’s hard to forget. The film may not have found audiences theatrically two years ago, but, now that it’s on Netflix, hopefully it find the audience it deserves.
Failed author Richard Dunn (Daniels) is stuck in a rut. He can’t seem to get his hands to type out the words in his head, and it doesn’t help that Captain Excellent (last Summer’s hero Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds), Richard’s imaginary friend since the Second Grade, keeps berating him about the lousy choices he makes. When Ricahrd’s wife Claire (Lisa Kudrow) sends Richard to a little house in Montauk, Richard makes a new friend in high schooler Abby (Stone) who he hires as a babysitter/housesitter whenever he goes out. Despite Abby’s best friend Christopher’s (Kiernan Culkin) harsh feelings about Richard and Captain Excellent’s stern words, Richard and Abby form a friendship that’s closer than either of them comprehend, which begins to inspire Richard to write again.
Writers Kiernan and Michele Mulroney (last year’s brilliant Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) make their directorial debut with this amazing film. The siblings of actor Dermot Mulroney take a bizarre premise and form one of the most endearing tales of friendship and personal growth in the last decade. Whether it’s the dialogue that is natural and believable or the perfect framing of every shot, the Mulroneys make a stunning movie that touches upon every emotion possible.
Jeff Daniels is amazing as the jilted writer Richard. His performance is the strongest he’s had in a film since 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, and it’s not difficult to see why he’s succeeding on The Newsroom. Emma Stone and Lisa Kudrow, of course, are wonderful as well. Stone’s performance as Abby shows wisdom beyond her years, and Kudrow’s scattered Claire is a beautiful mess. But it’s Ryan Reynolds as Captain Excellent that is the true gem of the film. Wearing blue and red spandex — and a giant red cape with an “E” on it — throughout the entire film, Reynolds’ snarky words and condescending tone of reason keeps the pacing of the film. And when Reynolds says “I sense danger!”, you can’t help but laugh, giving the film the surreal comedic relief it needs.
Many moviegoers won’t know what to do with Paper Man. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a creepy romance between a 40-something and a teenager? Though far from the latter, Paper Man, much like Eternal Sunshine, is an internal journey through trials and tribulations to discover who one man really is. Richard struggles with identity through the whole film, and, with the help of Abby and Richard’s imaginary friend, comes to terms with many of the things in his life for better or worse. Paper Man is not just a comedy or a drama. It is a journey, and a journey completely worth taking.
FINAL VERDICT: Paper Man is the hidden gem that, once you discover it, you’ll be telling all your friends for years to come. Comedic and dramatic, tragic and light-hearted, Paper Man is a film that dares to be different, and is magnificent because of it.