Michael Cera comedy flies under radar

Semi-secret 'Paper Hearts' has fest programmers buzzing

Look at most movie databases, and you'll find no mention of a new film called "Paper Hearts."

But talk to indie film insiders and the unconventional comedy, which stars Michael Cera and boasts other credits from Judd Apatow's talent stable, and you'll quickly realize how high expectations are running for this semi-secret project that's expected to debut at next year's Sundance Film Festival.

"It's pretty much 'the one,' at least as far as festival programmers are concerned," one seller said.

You can't blame programmers or buyers for investing their hopes in the title. It's not every day that the star of two movies in the boxoffice top 25 from the previous year toplines a movie whose rights are available -- let alone one on which word has been kept very quiet.

Those familiar with "Hearts" describe it as part-documentary, part-scripted comedy about the real-life relationship between Cera and his girlfriend, Charlyne Yi, another member of the Apatow acting crew (she played the pigtailed stoner in "Knocked Up"). Like Cera's recent "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist," music also is a key theme.

Nicholas Jasenovec, a relative unknown who has worked on past Apatow titles, makes his directing debut with the pic.



UTA -- which packaged the movie and will sell it in Park City with the help of law firm Lichter, Grossman, Nichols and Adler -- has been careful to limit advance word, presumably in the hopes of making a splash a la Sundance phenom "Napoleon Dynamite."

And after hyped movies like "What Just Happened" fizzled last year, most sellers believe it wise to keep Sundance expectations in check. "Any movie that's going to be touted too much will have a bull's-eye on its back," said one indie vet.

Still, some potential Sundance entries already are beginning to generate talk ahead of next week's slate announcement. Ashton Kutcher's raunch comedy "Spread," Endgame Entertainment's '60s coming-of-age story "An Education," Shana Feste's lost-child drama "The Greatest" and Antoine Fuqua's cop tale "Brooklyn's Finest" are setting tongues wagging on the feature side.

On the doc end, the Nicholas Kristof bio "Reporter," R.J. Cutler's nonfiction look at Anna Wintour from AE and the youth-politics pic "The Youngest Candidate" are creating heat. And the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor feature "I Love You Phillip Morris" could bring a high-profile gay-themed pic to the lineup, even as some critics of the Mormon church's support of Proposition 8 are calling for a boycott of the fest because it takes place in Utah.

Gregg Goldstein contributed to this report.
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