Labour Of Love: Our Review Of ‘Paper Year’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 25, 2018
Labour Of Love: Our Review Of ‘Paper Year’

What happens when a pair of newlyweds discover marriage is more than sex, love, and good intentions? Writer/director Rebecca Addelman’s new film, Paper Year, answers that question. Addelman’s romantic drama tells the story of two young Los Angelinos who get married on a whim. The couple believe their love will stand the test of time but outside forces put that love to the test.

Paper Year begins as young lovers Dan (Avan Jogia) and Franny (Eve Hewson) get hitched. Their first order of business is to drop by Franny’s parent’s house to share the news. While Dan’s parents are over the moon, Franny’s mother Joanne (Andie MacDowell) sees a train wreck. Franny is an unemployed aspiring writer and Dan is an “actor” who hasn’t booked a payed gig in two years. And judging by the couple’s carefree attitudes, Joanne has a point.

The plucky couple makes a go at married life and fortune shines on them before too long. Dan lands a cushy gig house sitting/dog walking for a D-list celebrity. And Franny scores a writing position on a trashy gameshow. As they take steps to become a responsible married couple, life gets more complicated. As pettiness, insecurity, and temptation invade their relationship, their love for one another may not be enough to carry their marriage past its paper year.

Eve Hewson caught my attention on The Knick a couple years back and now I’m always happy to see her show up in a movie. Her character on The Knick, Lucy, went through one of the more memorable character arcs in recent years and I believed every moment of it. In Paper Year, Hewson has only a couple of hours to sell us on her character’s transformation and she pulls off Franny’s change like a pro. Whether she is making gaga eyes at her husband, acting silly with her girlfriends, or trying to look professional at work, each moment felt like the behaviour of a fully formed character. Even when I didn’t agree with Franny’s decisions, I always found the character compelling.

Dan is a walking man-child cliché and not at all interesting to watch. He doesn’t feel like a character as much as a plot device existing to advance Franny’s arc. It’s too bad that Jogia’s performance is so underwhelming because a touch more humanity would make Dan’s time on screen more tolerable – a great performance can enhance a dud of a character. Dan isn’t so bad when he and Franny have a back and forth because they have solid chemistry. But the film’s energy takes a nosedive when he’s left alone to carry a scene.

Paper Year presents a captivating vision of Los Angeles. It’s a bustling sun-kissed metropolis where there’s always something just out of the frame demanding your attention. This isn’t the typical blue skies and palm trees LA either. There’s a gritty realness coming through here that many films lose beneath the standard glossy Hollywood sheen. Many of DP Steven Capitano Calitri’s exterior shots look like images taken from an Instagram feed – and I mean that as a compliment. He captures mundane objects and places like street signs, alleyways, and intersections and presents them onscreen in a way that livens them up. And then there’s moments when he ups the wow-factor. When characters make their way to Chinatown and we see the streets lit up by lanterns and neon signs, it’s flat-out visual bliss.

Paper Year is an intriguing debut from a first-time writer/director. Addelman may not have directed a feature before but she honed her skills writing on clever series like New Girl, and it shows. She has an ear for dialogue and – clunky exposition aside – her characters actually speak like real life millennials. That sounds like an easy feat but it’s not. New Girl is also a show about young adults struggling to transition into the world of responsible adulthood. It’s interesting that Addelman’s debut tackles those same themes. Whether she keeps exploring young adulthood or directs some old timers in a Cocoon reboot, I’m excited to see whatever Addelman does next.

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Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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