Even hardcore rom-com lovers might have trouble getting through this new Rashida Jones/Andy Samberg tale....
Sony / 92 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: February 5, 2013
The ennui of modern youthful romance is often too much to bear. In Celeste and Jesse Forever, the new mumblecore rom-com with Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones, the crushing truth of emotional reality leaves its characters heavily frustrated with the status quo and questioning how they got sucked into it - and how they might be able to wriggle free of its chains. For as we all know, love is as much a prison as it is a freedom, no?
As we meet our eponymous pair, they're finalizing their divorce. It turns out they've spent a few years trying to make it work, to weather the storm, but it just wasn't worth it. But once they try to splinter off and forge new romantic grounds on their own, they start to realize that maybe their marriage was a better fit than they originally thought. Is it worth it to just settle for each other and cut their losses?
Celeste and Jesse Forever is self-important and unconvincing, and it never locks into any kind of authenticity in terms of its characters' conundrums. Jones is a rock-solid actress - we haven't seen the last of her - but Samberg seems particularly out of his comfort zone here: his bumbling instincts as a comedian serve his roving-artist caricature well, but as a fully-rounded on-screen entity, he comes up short. And without a central amor to anchor the picture, things pretty much fall apart.
This is exactly the kind of rom-com that falls off the radar quickly. It's not endemic enough of major genre syntax to entertain an audience at large, and it's not formally unique to rev up an indie audience. There are some precocious monologue here, and every once in a while one of Celeste and Jesse Forever's rambling dialogue scenes capture a flitting twenty-something sensibility, but one watches the film and mostly just wants to slap its protagonists in the face and tell them to stop analyzing themselves and just do something. Anything.