In one, “Slings & Arrows,” it works. In the other, “Paper Man,” it’s not even needed.
That’s not to say “Paper Man” is a failure. Although problematic in parts, it’s an enjoyable indie dramedy that is every bit as quirky as you’d expect when you hear the phrase “enjoyable indie dramedy.”
Jeff Daniels is the man of the title, Richard, a novelist struggling to follow up his first fiction effort, which sold poorly. His wife (Lisa Kudrow), a well-to-do surgeon, practically forces him and his old-school typewriter to spend weeks in isolation at a cozy, sparsely furnished home in the wilds of Long Island. Richard literally can’t get past the first sentence; he’s too distracted, partly by Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds), a superhero who’s been his constant, albeit fictional companion since childhood.
Further distraction kicks in when he meets Abby (Emma Stone), a disillusioned high school girl in town, and he instinctively, inexplicably hires her for babysitting duties, although he is, of course, childless. In her, he forges a relationship that fulfills everything he lacks in his marriage. Well, nearly everything — it’s platonic.
Kieran and Michele Mulroney make the mistakes of many a debuting director in subbing plot points for actual plot, without fully connecting those dots. But they have given Daniels and Stone interesting human characters to inhabit, and the two actors rise to the occasion, delivering performances that merit a rental alone.
With a costume resembling an beefed-up Boy Scout and bleached-blond hair, Reynolds has fun poking at his own image (the guy’s going to be Green Lantern, after all), but his exchanges with Daniels are as distracting to viewers as they are to the novelist.
“Paper Man” isn’t an all-out winner, but it does cross the finish line in admirable time. It’s a good start for the Mulroneys. —Rod Lott