Thursday, September 6, 2012

Celeste & Jesse Forever

Rashida Jones as Celeste, the main character in Celeste & Jesse Forever
**1/2 out of ****

Celeste & Jesse Forever is relationship dramedy with doses of When Harry Met Sally, Cameron Crowe, Judd Apatow, and polished with a standard bland-color digital indie film aesthetic. It is directed by Lee Toland Krieger, with a co-written script by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.

It is steeped in the world of Yogalatteiphoneville. Let's call it L.A.. The main character's profession is that of a "trend analyzer." If the person with a job like that is the more successful, the next one is naturally a struggling artist (God-forbid we get a relationship story featuring people with boring jobs like everyone else). There's a Halloween party where no one is dressed up as anything remotely threatening. There are characters ranging from neo-hippies, comic gays, a goofy weed-dealer, cellphone follies, and a running gag on the subject of cutting in line as an allegory for how you conduct your life.
This is all stuff that distances me from the film while at the same time I can't fault it for these characteristics. This is a movie written by Hollywood celebrities (Jones being Hollywood royalty) who are honestly writing from what they know and broadening it to be more accessible. While I think it will reach an appreciative audience, it still didn't quite reach me.

Check out The AV Club's review.

This story involves a recently separated couple, played by the wonderful Rashida Jones as Celeste and a subdued Andy Samberg as Jesse. They are convinced that they can maintain a close friendship. Their chemistry suggests they are two people who will always be comfortable with each other and constantly on the same page in social situations. Despite their functionality, they don't feel they're meant for each other and know that they will move on to better relationships. Then Jesse moves on -in an unexpectedly big way, leaving Celeste drowned with the realization of her loss. 

The title and billing mislead a bit, as this story is more Celeste  and less Jesse. There are only a few scenes that feature Samberg's Jesse in a separate environment or by himself. Without these scenes the movie would be more centered in it's essence as a self-realization story from the point of view of Celeste.

I love Rashida Jones for her bravery in writing and playing a high-standards borderline snob of a character who is embarrassing herself in the face of deprivation. There was a scene near the end when she has to make a speech in front of a lot of people and it almost goes in the direction of Kristen Wiig's antics in Bridesmaids, but thankfully it doesn't. For the most part, this is a movie stays true to itself.   

So why did this feel so boring to me? I guess I didn't find anyone in the movie to be very fun. By "fun," I don't mean likeable. I mean engaging. Sadly this is attempted with weak comic-relief characters and a scene during a bridal shower in which Celeste has hit rock-bottom and drunkenly makes an ass of herself in a style that is a little over-the-top. I was reminded of Campbell Scott in Singles when his once-clean house became a comic ruin due to a breakup -it's a rare part where the movie lowers itself for a cheap laugh. Rashida Jones is an appealing person to me and she has helped create a film that shows more potential from her than we've seen before. It is very possible that if she brings her writing ability and acting talent to another collaborator, we will see bolder results.

Listen to this interview with her on All Things Considered.

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