3.5 stars. Rating: R, for profanity, drug use and sexual candor
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 8.31.12
If art truly imitates life, then — based on the evidence of recent films such as this one, Lola Versus and Ruby Sparks — today’s self-absorbed thirtysomethings haven’t the faintest idea how to embrace and sustain a relationship.
At first blush, however, the opposite seems true of the title characters in Celeste and Jesse Forever ... and that’s the clever twist in this arch and perceptive script from Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.
Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are introduced on what seems an average day. They’re bubbly, effervescent and completely at ease with each other. They enjoy many of the same artful pursuits, while cheerfully tolerating each other’s varying tastes. They finish sentences together, dissect restaurant menus in mock German accents, and share little physical rituals, from air-hugs to hilariously vulgar acts with tubes of lip gloss.
In a word, they’re cute enough to be cloying.
Unfortunately, they aren’t a couple. At least ... not really.
Indeed, they’re long separated and in the final stages of divorce. But an inability to stay married hasn’t damaged their friendship, although this dichotomy falls outside the bounds of comfort for their respective best friends, Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), coincidentally engaged and soon to be wed.
We deduce that Celeste and Jesse once were perfectly matched, during the younger days that led to their own wedded bliss. But Celeste has matured beyond the giddy rush of carefree twentysomethingness; she has become the ambitious, workaholic co-owner of her own media consulting firm. She’s also a frequently quoted “trend analyzer” and the author of a book on same, provocatively titled Shitegeist.
The passive Jesse, alternatively, prefers the lackadaisical existence of an artist. He’ll blow off deadlines — even on projects for Celeste — in order to watch TV or get stoned with good buddy Skillz (McCormack), a casual pot dealer who is quite vexed by the medical marijuana clinics that are interfering with his business model.
When Beth confronts her best friend and wonders aloud, for the umpteenth time, why she and Jesse don’t get back together, Celeste rather waspishly replies that she can’t spend her life with a guy who won’t even get a checking account.
“The father of my child,” she insists, “will own a car.”
It’s a droll line, one of many in this frequently witty script. But Celeste’s facility for disdainful zingers is a defense mechanism: one that eventually fails to conceal the arrogance of a condescending control freak.