In the new film, "Paper Man," Jeff Daniels plays a struggling novelist to immature to deal with the realities of life. Instead he shuffles through life to scared to take a risk and choosing to continue to communicate with his imaginary childhood friend, a costumed super hero. His wife, played by Lisa Kudrow, is forced to become his caretaker and acts more like a Mother to him than a wife. This is a trap in the marriage process and I think something that anyone can relate to. The film brilliantly, hilariously and touchingly holds a mirror up to the institution of marriage while at the same time evaluate a man going through a mid-life crisis. The film is wonderfully written and directed by Kieran and Michele Mulroney and is a heartwarming and funny film about the difficulties of everyday life.
Actor Jeff Daniels has always flown under the radar to some degree but is secretly one of our finest actors. Probably best known for his roles in the '90s hits "Dumb and Dumber" and "Speed," Daniels has done some of his most daring and impressive work in the last few years in independent films like "The Lookout" and "The Squid And The Whale" and that is no different here. Daniels is charming while pathetic in this role and that allows the audience to sympathize with this otherwise unsympathetic character. Also fantastic in the movie is Emma Stone who plays the teenager that Daniels character befriends. Stone has quickly gained the attention of audiences with her unique looks and raspy voice in hit films like "Superbad" and "Zombieland." Here the actress gives a multi-layered, fully emotional performance that shows that the actress is much more than just a pretty face.
In the film, Jeff Daniels plays a struggling novelist named Richard whose last book didn't sell a copy. He is in a loveless marriage with his wife Claire (Kudrow) who is a successful doctor and spends most of her free time taking care of Richard. Their marriage has begun to deteriorate and they are no longer experiencing a healthy husband/wife dynamic, instead it is more like a Mother's relationship to her child. Richard, in fact, behaves like a child and still communicates with his imaginary childhood friend, Captain Excellent, played by the charming and funny Ryan Reynolds. Claire decides that the only way to save her marriage is to force Richard to write his second book, something that he has been procrastinating on. She rents a cabin in the woods for him to live in, in seclusion while he writes the novel. She hopes that this will also force Richard to grow up and learn take care of himself, not to mention give her a well earned break as she would be returning to their home in the city ad only visiting on the weekends. Now all alone during the week to fend for him self, Daniel is haunted by his own inadequacies and can't seem to get any work done because he spends most of his time talking to Captain Excellent and neurotically moving the living room furniture out of the house and into the back yard.
One day after riding his bicycle into town Daniel meets Abby (Stone) a local teenage girl lost in a small town and searching for an identity. Daniel is smitten with the young girl and asks hires her to baby-sit for him on Friday nights, even though he has no children. She agrees and slowly begins taking care of him, preparing soup for him and becoming his friend. They strike up an unusual friendship as the weeks pass but Daniel is still unable to begin his book. As the two become closer they discover that they are not that different from each other and in fact, Abby is harboring some dark secrets of her own that have affected the young girl's life. Abbey has a close friend named Christopher played by Kieran Culkin who may not be exactly who you think and encourages Abbey to stay away from Daniel. Things get strange when Abby's abusive boyfriend threatens their friendship so Daniel offers to throw a party at the house for all the local kids. When the party gets out of hand Abby sends everyone home and she and Daniel spend a romantic night together, only to be woke up in the morning by Claire, who is not pleased to see them together. Now Daniel must choose between his life and marriage with Claire, and the connection that he has made with Abby and in the process learns to say goodbye to his childhood and except being an adult.
The Mulroney's script is excellently written and acted by the superb cast. Their direction is also well done, as the pacing of the film is just right. Kudrow gives a strong performance as the bitter wife and her patent humor shined through the character. Ryan Reynolds is very funny and plays his role perfectly as this sort of, George Reeves era Superman, Captain Excellent. Seeing the actor in the tights and cape was funny considering that he is so widely associated with super-heroes having played Marvel's Deadpool in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and is currently filming "Green Lantern" as we speak. I thought it was a great bit of casting and showed the actor's sense of humor, poking fun at him self. But it is the performances and the chemistry between Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone that makes this film work. No matter what a jackass Daniels's Richard acts like you can't help but sympathize and relate to him and that is due to Daniels great performance. Daniels is secretly one of the best actors around and this film proves it. While Stone's performance is beautiful, layered and well beyond her years in sophistication and understanding of the human heart. Stone is definitely one actress that we should keep an eye on in the future. In the end, Paper Man is a moving, touching and funny film that anyone can relate to. The film brilliantly evaluates life, love, growing up and the imaginary super-hero on in all of us.