Friday, August 26, 2011

Paper Man - a good/bad movie about writer struggles

As a dedicated insomniac, I spent tonight watching a movie with two of my favorite actors--Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone. The movie is called Paper Man and it's got all sorts of problems--cliches, sappiness, overdone quirkiness, but it's still totally worth watching.

Jeff Daniels plays a writer with (guess what?) writer's block. All writers in movies, from The Shining, to Barton Fink to Throw Momma From The Train, have writer's block. It's a rule. Writers in movies must stare at typewriters. Just like the rule about how a cough in real life means nothing, but a cough in a movie means you'll die soon. In real life, by the way, writers don't stare at typewriters. They stare at laptops. Anyway, Daniels has writer's block and an annoying imaginary friend, but he's still a joy to watch. Emma Stone plays her standard bitter-but-lovable teen role, but she's just so damn good that you put up with the cliches they loaded her character with. Kieran Kulkin is in it, too, but he's a weird-looking kid and I mostly just wish he'd stay off the screen so we could see more of Daniels and Stone. Same with Ryan Reynolds, who is occasionally a good actor, but his imaginary-friend role in this movie sucks.

The filmmakers seem to be going for a Lost In Translation vibe. Sometimes they get it, but they try too hard.

All that said, you should still watch this movie, because it's still a good examination of the sometimes-solitary job of writing. The distractions, the self-inflicted pressure, the obsessing over single words and names, the always-present self-doubt. And it's Jeff Daniels, whose never been bad in a movie.

If it sounds too full of problems to waste your time, then just watch him in Something Wild.

The movie is also set in the South Shore area near Boston, where my brother Dan lives. It's a lot nicer than they make it look in the movie.

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