|
|
|
The Times
  • Movie review: 'Celeste and Jesse' an honest romantic comedy

  • The fitfully charming “Celeste and Jesse Forever” comes disguised as a romantic comedy, but at its heart it’s really a cleverly conceived coming-of-age-story that skillfully walks the line between humor and pathos while exploring the age-old question of whether or not a man and a woman can be platonic friends.

    • email print
  • The fitfully charming “Celeste and Jesse Forever” comes disguised as a romantic comedy, but at its heart it’s really a cleverly conceived coming-of-age-story that skillfully walks the line between humor and pathos while exploring the age-old question of whether or not a man and a woman can be platonic friends.
    It also boldly announces the arrival of Rashida Jones and Will McCormick as accomplished screenwriters with fresh ideas and a willingness to think beyond the box.
    They’re still a little rough around the edges, but like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck before them, these veteran character actors are smart enough to grasp the concept of writing what you know. And what they know well are the perils of remaining friends after romance has come and gone.
    Their spark lasted all of three weeks, but that was obviously ample time for them to hone the insight to tell the evocative tale of Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (“SNL’s” Andy Samberg), a couple that dated all through high school and college before getting married under the incorrect assumption that all you need is love – and friendship. But as the film opens, they’re six months into a trial separation that’s so amicable it borders on weird.
    If anything, they’re happier than ever, always hanging out, acting silly and lending each other unbridled devotion. But trouble looms on various fronts, not the least of which is Jesse’s sudden involvement with a former one-night stand. The problem is that no matter how hard they try, Celeste and Jesse cannot let each other go, much to the chagrin of their best friends (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen) and – more so – their potential lovers, played by Chris Messina and Rebecca Dayan.
    Director Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”), along with Jones and McCormick, who has a small part as the couple’s pot-dealing pal, Skiltz, don’t shy away from the messiness of the situation, eliciting a surprising amount of humor – and optimism – from the ensuing heartbreak. The only time they flagrantly err is with a jarring, needless subplot involving Emma Roberts as a smarter-than-she-looks Britney-like pop tart named Riley Banks, who comes to Celeste’s fledgling consulting business, Popform, looking to broaden her brand. Roberts is great in the role, even nailing a couple of zingers, but her character just doesn’t jibe with the rest of the picture.
    What does work are the breakout performances by Samberg, terrific as a lovable man-child, and Jones, embraceable as an alpha career woman, who, like Jesse, hasn’t really matured since they met way back in high school. The writers and the actors do a marvelous job of subtly revealing the couple’s childish faults in a realistic manner. And because they are so convincing, you grow to care deeply about both, while fighting the urge to sternly admonish them for behaving like 12-year-olds.
    Page 2 of 2 - And while “Celeste and Jesse” runs counter to typical rom-coms, it exudes ardor to such a natural degree that its bittersweet conclusion hits you square in the gut. Best of all, it vehemently avoids fast, easy solutions, leaving a host of loose ends to be tied up as we see fit. And in a day when so many films have become overtly obvious, it’s refreshing to see a piece like “Celeste and Jesse” smart enough to trust its audience. Who knows, it could well be the start of a beautiful friendship.
    CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER (R for language, sexual content and drug use.) Cast includes Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg and Chris Messina. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. At Kendall Square, Cambridge. 3 stars out of 4
     
      • calendar