Ashvegas movie review: ‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ bring laughs, little else


Think this is an indie film?
The joke’s on you.
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:

Celeste & Jesse Forever may be funny, but it’s far from the indie film it posits itself to be.  Frequent handheld cinematography, catchy music, and a hip cast may occasionally do the job, but in the absence of a decent script, these elements are merely labels.  The film instead takes a fairly novel concept and weighs it down with cliches.  All the big speeches, “have it out” moments, and requisite supporting character types are here, funneled through a trendy slice of modern L.A. that never fully comes together.  Featuring two leads without the chops to carry a film, it’s a good idea that prioritizes laughs over storytelling, an approach that can only be so successful.

Swedish furniture assembly:
the ultimate aphrodisiac.
(Sony Pictures Classics)

After a solid opening montage of snapshots summarizing their relationship, Lee Toland Krieger’s film jumps to the present where all signs point to Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) being a dream couple.  While out at dinner with friends Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), however, it’s revealed that the titular pair have in fact been separated for six months.  The pending divorce hasn’t kept the self-professed best friends from spending all of their free time together, nor has it booted either from their property, as Jesse lives care-free and with Celeste’s blessing in what is technically still his backyard studio.

Delusionally they roll along, until a failed IKEA assembly leads to a drunken hook-up.  Jesse gleefully interprets the encounter as Celeste wanting to get back together, but she calls the night a mistake and the rejection inspires Jesse to move out.  Jump ahead a few weeks where Jesse announces that, as the result of a one night stand from months before, he’s going to have a baby with Veronica (Rebecca Dayan).  The news sends Celeste into a tailspin, and as she desperately rushes into the dating world to catch up, she begins to wonder if she and Jesse belong together after all.

“Bro, did you just crop dust me?”
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Written by Jones and Will McCormack (who also appears as a pot dealer named Skillz), Celeste & Jesse Forever boils down to a collage of jokes, most of them successful, without a decent story to provide support.  These disconnected yuks receive far more attention than Jesse’s pending fatherhood, the film’s supposed core crisis, which comes out of nowhere and, more tragically, is barely developed.  Jones and McCormack mysteriously leave the news dangling and opt to focus on anything but this revelation.  Their neglect gives the pregnancy a false feel and appears destined to be debunked, as if it’s all one big misunderstanding, after which everyone will live child-free, happily ever after.  That Jesse is indeed the father of Veronica’s child indicates a disinterest on the screenwriters’ part in the story itself, but why bother when there are so many random laughs to be had?

“Maybe we never should have…
left network television.”
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Such lazy writing is unfortunate, but doesn’t mean that the film is a bust.  As a straightforward comedy, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a winner.  The jokes are genuinely good and the film succeeds most when it goes for extreme humor, notably an obscene recurring gag involving a tube of lip balm.  With and without the tube, Samberg and Jones exhibit fine chemistry and an effortless familiarity true to their characters’ history.  Watching them joyfully connect through goofing off, it almost doesn’t matter that he’s unable to pull off Jesse’s sudden dad-in-training maturity, or that she’s far better suited for supporting roles.  It also nearly obscures the waste of such supporting talent as Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, and Chris Messina, each of whom are thrust into roles from Comedy Writing 101.  Almost and nearly…but not quite.

Oh yeah, I guess you ARE in this movie.
(Sony Pictures Classics)

While it’s refreshing to see more female comedy writers transition to film, Jones still has a ways to go before reaching Tina Fey or Diablo Cody status.  Her first script is full of potential, but as was the case with last year’s Bridesmaids, it feels more like a string of sketches than a feature-length project.  Along with Samberg, her on-screen efforts are a big reason why Celeste & Jesse Forever ultimately works.  If only her off-screen contributions were as strong.

Grade: B-

Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use.

Celeste & Jesse Forever opens Friday, August 31 at the Fine Arts Theatre on Biltmore Ave. and the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.

For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.


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