Susan Granger’s review of “Celeste and Jesse Forever” (Sony Pictures Classics)
It’s understandable why Rashida Jones got tired of the type-casting that’s dogged her since her debut on TV’s “Boston Public,” continuing through her voice-of-reason role on “Parks and Recreation.” So, as a bright, 1997 Harvard grad and progeny of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, she wrote this off-beat comedy for herself with actor Will McCormack, who plays her buddy on-screen. Made in 23 days for slightly under $1, it’s bound to make money – but it should be better.
Snarky Celeste (Jones) is a hard-driven ‘trend-spotter’ with her own Los Angeles media-consulting firm and dorky Jesse (Andy Samberg from “Saturday Night Live”) is her immature, lounge-lizard ex-husband who still occupies a studio behind what used-to-be their house. Together since high school, they’re legally separated but remain best-friends who chant and do Swedish accents together, primarily for their own amusement. While Celeste promotes her new book “Shitegeist,” she’s fervently hoping that he’ll grow up and get his artistic act together, which is does – only not with her. Jesse’s stunning new girl-friend Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) gets pregnant after a one-night stand, and he’s desperately trying to do the right thing.
Celeste and Jesse’s behavior totally weirds out about-to-be-married close friends (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen) as they routinely indulge in raunchy routines, like cutely, cloyingly playing with a ChapStick tube, carrots and other suggestive objects.
Unevenly directed by Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”), the story not only lacks character development but seems to drag interminably from awkward, cliché-filled scene to formulaic, cliché-filled scene. The best moments come supporting players like Will McCormack as Jesse’s dejected pot dealer/buddy, Elijah Wood as Celeste’s gay, sarcastic colleague, Emma Roberts as a pampered pop star, and underused Chris Messina as an affable guy from Celeste’s yoga class who comes to a costume party as a “serial killer,” clad in cereal boxes with dinner knives.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is a tiresome, shallow 6. While it’s only 90 minutes in length, it somehow seems like forever.