Lovers, friends; marriage ends
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, August 10, 2012
Like a younger, trendified version of “It’s Complicated,” the romantic comedy “Celeste and Jesse Forever” aspires to be an ode to unresolved feelings, an equal parts wistful and antic exploration of relationships at their most messy, contradictory and unconventional.
Which makes it all the more disappointing when “Celeste and Jesse Forever” -- which Rashida Jones co-wrote and stars in -- turns into yet one more of a series of summer films in which attractive, ambitious young women are punished for not accepting the man-children in their lives despite their torn-teddy-bear flaws.
In this case, the woman being hung out to cry is Celeste (Jones), a bright market researcher whose relationship with Jesse (Andy Samberg) plays out in the course of the film’s opening credits -- a clever visual morphology of how friendship and giddy romance give way to the banalities of marriage.
Once the movie begins in earnest, the couple are on their way to dinner with friends, indulging in a mildly vulgar private joke. Once they’re in the restaurant, they begin to speak in mock German accents, precisely the kind of shared cutesy-poo intimacy that makes married couples seem so obnoxious to their single friends.
But, well . . . it’s complicated. And then it gets more complicated, at which point “Celeste and Jesse Forever” takes a dramatic turn to focus on Celeste and what seems to be an incipient nervous breakdown, drowning her sorrows in booze and weed, making inappropriate appearances at other people’s wedding showers and embarking on a series of ill-fated romantic encounters. When a guy played by Chris Messina tries to pick her up after yoga class, Celeste rebuffs him with a sharply worded tirade about everything she can tell just by looking at him.
It’s a good line, and for a minute there, it looks like “Celeste and Jesse Forever” might exemplify the subtle, observational humor that Jones has brought so credibly to the screen, in such television shows as “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” and in sympathetic supporting roles in big movies. The film’s most promising story line involves a budding friendship between Celeste and one of her marketing clients, a self-involved pop star well played by Emma Roberts.
But that relationship, like the film itself, falters, as “Celeste and Jesse Forever” engages in Bridget Jones-like comedy of mortification, sending its heroine down a path of self-discovery that ultimately seems more cruel than revelatory. “You think you’re smarter than everyone else, and that’s your dark little prison,” Roberts' character tells Celeste. Jones has made a film that, even if obliquely, is just as denigrating of intelligence -- its own and the audience’s.
Contains drug use, profanity and sexual content.