When I watch a new romantic comedy, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I'm glad to report that Celeste & Jesse Forever is a pretty good one. Its quirky, indie vibe is appealing, and it strives - at times too hard - to rise above the genre's clichés.
The stars have great chemistry. Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live) and co-writer Rashida Jones (The Office) are appealing together. In their best moments, at the beginning, they are just hanging out together in Los Angeles, horsing around and being funny. At this point, Celeste and Jesse aren't actually lovers. They're a separated married couple who are best friends, and this creeps out everyone who knows them.
Celeste is a familiar cinematic type, an icy career woman who reminds me of Katharine Hepburn's character in Adam's Rib. Jesse is no Spencer Tracy, though. He's an artist, a surfer, a vegan. The two part ways after Jesse finds out he's going to be a dad, and then the film mainly follows Celeste as she goes on bad dates and deals with problems at her PR job. At this point, the storytelling becomes choppy and episodic, and Celeste's character is increasingly unpleasant, condescending and self-destructive. It's kind of hard to watch.
But Jones brings much charm to this role, and the performances - hers and Samberg's, and those of some funny minor players - keep the film entertaining. It's a smart romantic comedy, and that's saying something.