Sunday, August 5, 2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Call it the Chodorow Inversion Principle: The more dialogue in a contemporary romantic comedy, the less amusing, clever and truthful it is. Example #4,291: the laugh-free zone “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” with writer-star Rashida Jones as the co-founder of a “trend forecasting” PR firm and Andy Samberg as the goldbrick artist she’s divorcing – but still goes out with every night and lets stay in her guest house. As they begin to date other people, they still talk to each other – nonstop – and the effect of all their cutesy-poo shtick on us is enervating.

Jones’ script is so very WRITTEN. We’ve all seen screenplays like this, with ideas that seem clever to their creators but just thud to the rest of us. Celeste’s firm designs a logo for a Britney Spears wannabe’s album that unintentionally resembles a male sex organ entering buttocks; suddenly it’s on every T-shirt in WeHo: “the gay Izod.” Yeah. The character of Celeste’s gay co-founder is equally awkward and offensive; he comes into her office to talk business but prances out singing about his love for, well, anyway.

It’s the sort of picture that takes place entirely in Movieland, where nothing anybody says or does bears any resemblance to anything that’s ever been said or done by an actual human being. As usual, Chris Messina is the best thing in any movie he’s in, but there’s way too little of him. Samberg, the SNL player, is totally unripe for a big-screen romantic lead; even his clothes look like they’re swimming on him. As for Jones, she has an offbeat look that could work in the right light, but she’s made herself highly unappealing here. As Gene Siskel once said of Amanda Pays, she should learn to smile pretty for the camera.

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