Thursday, May 16, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) ***

R, 92 min.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina, Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Rebecca Dayan

I liked “Celeste & Jesse Forever”. It’s well acted. It’s well written, well directed. Andy Samberg is surprisingly effective in his dramatic scenes as many comedians often are. Rashida Jones makes for a compelling leading lady, attractive, but not your typical romcom beauty. It’s insightful about relationships, and its more funny than it is serious, which is probably how we should approach romance. It should be about having fun.

There’s something about it that makes me want to complain, though. It has a little to do with something I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the television series “New Girl”. There’s this tactic with romantic comedies to have the leading character be miles behind the audience and the rest of the characters about what they should want and desire. This movie in particular makes it clear what Jones’s character’s problem is from the start.

She and her husband (Samberg) of six years have been separated for the past six months. However, they still hang out together as best friends. Their good friends who are about to be married themselves call them out on this. “It’s weird.” Everybody thinks it’s time for them to move on. Something happens that compels the husband to move on and then we, and everybody in the movie, can see everything that Jones cannot. We end up waiting for the entire movie for her to get a clue about herself and her relationship with her ex-husband. Everybody close to her, and a few people who barely know her, tell her what is up with her feelings; but she continues to deny them. It’s all about her figuring herself out and we already have. The journey of the film is Jones catching up with everybody else. This is a little frustrating to be so far ahead of the movie.

The truth is this is how we all are, though. We can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to self-analysis most of the time. So you can’t really fault the film for getting it wrong. Perhaps she should just never get it. Maybe that would provide a better example of how most of us are. That would leave us unfulfilled when it comes to our investment in the character, however. I don’t know. Like I said, I liked it; but it made me think about the dramatic purpose of a story where the audience is more informed than the main character.

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