“We’re not like every other romantic comedy—we’re different!” This is practically the new advertising slogan for every chick flick that has come out in the past few years. Despite all these films that claim to turn the genre on its head, audiences have finally begun to grow weary of the same Katherine Heigel and Jennifer Aniston flicks that Hollywood churns out. While recent movies like “Hope Springs” and “Ruby Sparks” have been mildly successful at giving audiences a new look at love, “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is sparse on laughs and never quite lives up to its potential.
When the movie first begins, the audience is not aware that Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) have already been separated for months but still remain best friends. This is one of the few surprises that show a glimmer of hope that this comedy may be different, but the story quickly descends into an abyss of clichés and unlikable protagonists. Celeste and Jesse are obnoxious when they are together, unpleasant when they’re apart and we frankly don’t give a damn if they ever get back together. These are not just lovesick sweethearts; these people need some serious help.
It pains me to be so negative about the film: I love Rashida Jones and although she may be the least-developed character on NBC’s hilarious “Parks and Recreation,” I believe she is a very talented comedienne. I understand this is her feature-film writing debut, and it is not a terrible entrance by any means, but it is nothing memorable. Although the movie is only 90 minutes long, it brings meaning to the title’s use of the word “forever” and drags us through a dull cycle of make-ups, break-ups, bad dates and flat out misery.
It does not help that Jones and Samberg have very little chemistry, aside from a few hilarious segments where they use Swedish accents and simulate sexual acts on a ChapStick tube. Samberg is unconvincing when it comes to more dramatic scenes and has absolutely no character development—whether the writing or his lack of training is to blame is anybody’s guess. We are supposed to believe that he is happy with his new life when he looks like his kitten just died every time he’s on screen?
The movie is wildly uneven and there are too many romantic-comedy clichés to even begin to name, such as Celeste going on a montage of “awkward” dates, her continual insistence that she’s “fine” to her concerned friends, and naturally, a toast at her best friend’s wedding that becomes a lot more about her than the bride and groom.
There are some enjoyable cameos from Emma Roberts as a spoiled teenage pop star and Elijah Wood as Celeste’s gay co-worker. Chris Messina, as Celeste’s new love interest, is instantly likeable and easily would have made a better Jesse than Samberg does. The writing has hints of cleverness, particularly when Messina’s character shows up to a costume party wearing cereal boxes and dinner knives (Get it? He’s a “serial killer”).
There is a definite problem when we like the supporting characters more than the protagonists. Celeste and Jesse just do not feel like real people, but more like cookie-cutter characters far removed from reality. We have no idea why their marriage crumbled apart, aside from a couple lines of dialogue where Celeste expresses that Jesse has “no checking account” and does not “own a pair of dress shoes.” All we get is that she’s uptight, he’s lazy and they both love to whine about their issues instead of saying anything remotely unique or constructive about love.
I feel like the best romantic comedies are the ones where we can find a little bit of ourselves in a character, like how some guys see themselves in Peter from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” or how women may relate to Bridget of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” There is no one we can connect to in “Celeste and Jesse Forever” because they are too busy complaining for us to actually get to know them. The movie tries so hard to make its protagonists “regular people” dealing with “regular problems” that there is absolutely nothing natural about them.