With Miranda July's "The Future," the Anton Yelchin romance "Like Crazy," the Greta Gerwig vehicle "Lola Versus" and the fantasy-tinged "Ruby Sparks," young lovers on the path to breakup has become a hot topic. This thought struck me while watching the unnecessary comedy drama "Celeste and Jesse Forever," which offers little that is original to think about.
Starring and written by Rashida Jones, the film follows a couple who have been best friends since 10th grade, couldn't make it as a married couple, and now, six months after their divorce, can't make a clean break and move on with new lives.
Jones and co-star Andy Samberg are an agreeable pair, but nothing about Celeste or Jesse would make you want to spend an evening with them, much less eternity. Their characters are thinly imagined stock figures. Celeste is a driven, demanding marketing whiz who advises her clients how to exploit emerging cultural shifts. Jesse is a human low-pressure zone who would just as soon zone out to a videogame marathon as pursue his graphic design career. They seem economically well off; Celeste's rationale for the split is, "The father of my children will own a car!" They're like flimsy characters trying to leap the chasm between sitcom and film.
Jones and Samberg are cute and the gabby screenplay allows them to bop jokes back and forth like badminton shuttlecocks. There's something a little weird in their characters' post-divorce friendship, however. It freaks out their friends when they show up together for a double-date dinner. Such a relationship can only move on to a dead end. A movie about such a relationship, ditto. Too often it trots out shopworn jokes (the awkward wedding toast, the dating montage, forced physical comedy) in place of entertaining character notes.
The story line trails Celeste through a Los Angeles landscape of yoga classes, sassy gay co-workers (Elijah Wood limp-wristing it shamelessly), New Age spirituality and health food fanatics. It's as if a trend guru like Celeste assembled a load of stale references approaching their sell-by date. As she spirals into seriocomic work and self-medication problems, Jesse begins dating, impregnates his terrific new girlfriend and begins maturing a la "Knocked Up."
It's amusing to see Celeste's frustration as her callow ex becomes the guy she wanted him to be. In turn, she begins to realize that being a perfectionist smarty-pants might not be a ticket to happy coupledom. Jones shifts to drama in the final stretch, suffering, looking needy and ridiculous on the road to cathartic self-understanding. Too bad Jones the actress didn't demand better work from Jones the writer.
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
★★ out of four stars Rating: R. Theater: Lagoon, Showplace Icon.