Sunday, September 16, 2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever, a review

Rashida Jones plays Celeste, a 30-something career woman who's about to get divorced from her life-long best friend Jesse (Andy Samberg), an artist who appears to slack off more than anything else. Their friendship still binds them together even through the twilight of their marriage, but eventually events will occur that will drive a wedge between them that may keep them apart for good.

Celeste and Jesse Forever, written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (who plays Skillz in the movie), is a pleasant indie romantic comedy that unfortunately meanders a bit too much in the second half and ends with barely a whimper. Even at 92-minutes, the plot ultimately feels a bit too thin. It's almost as if they introduced the main plot detail too early and the writers were scrambling trying to figure out a way to draw things out and end this film on a fitting conclusion.

The conclusion itself is indeed fitting if only because it's inevitable, still Celeste and Jesse Forever does have quite a bit to say about love and divorce, figuring things out in the next phase of your life. It's about two close friends who may still be very much in love but the circumstances that transpire have forced them to part. It's a little melancholy, but that's life. The main strength of Celeste and Jesse, and part of what keeps it going, is its down-to-earth realness.

Another part of what keeps this film going is a strong performance from Rashida Jones. Andy Samberg is no slouch either and plays a very charming and likable character, but this is a Rashida Jones movie. Finally she's able to showcase her ability as both a comedic and dramatic performer. One thing I will say is that I feel like I've seen her play this type of character a bit too much. Whether it's Karen from the Office, or her character in Parks and Recreation, etc... She's definitely cultivated an on-screen persona for herself and she's enjoyable and charismatic enough to carry her movie. I just hope she eventually starts to try different things.

This is a well-made movie that just has a few too many pacing problems. It does get a bit too frustrating to watch Jesse manage to ease his way through relationships with women whereas Celeste never seems to get to have too much fun on screen. Another unfortunate aspect of the movie is the fact that the chemistry between Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones is actually off-the-charts. They are wonderful together. But, they wind up spending so much time apart on screen which kinda brings down the energy of the movie. Sure, the movie has a decent amount of laughs throughout, but they mostly come from when Celeste and Jesse are on screen together. I think it might have been better to see them together a little longer, as it is, we only really get a hint of what they're like when they're together.

Celeste and Jesse Forever is a cute little romantic comedy that's also realistic. It's also got a great premise and the approach to otherwise standard material feels fresh and original. However, once the movie enters its second act, the movie struggles a bit too much to get back on its feet again. By the time the film is over, you'll be looking at your watch wondering how it's only been 90 minutes. The pacing of Celeste and Jesse just feels off. It's not necessarily a feel-good film but it's an earnest attempt at deconstructing a failed relationship and, for that, I think it deserves a fair amount of respect.

Grade: C+

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