Women really need to stop expecting anything from their husbands if they want to be happy. Or so Celeste and Jesse Forever tells us. A misguided romantic comedy about a divorcing couple who can’t quite manage to go their own ways, the movie actually insults its target audience by suggesting — no, insisting — that Celeste (Rashida Jones of Parks and Recreation) is a witch because she wants her manchild husband Jesse (Andy Samberg of SNL and That’s My Boy) to get up off the couch and get a job. She even says she wants the father of her children to own a car. These people live in Los Angeles. This is not an outrageous expectation.
Of course, maybe women aren’t the target audience of Celeste and Jesse Forever, which tries to blend chick flick staples with bro humor but never quite gets the mix right. Co-written by Jones and Mark McCormack, who also co-stars in the role of a man in his 30s named Skillz — no, seriously — the movie opens with Jones and Samberg sharing the spotlight as a separated couple that still hangs out together. All the time. She lives in the house; he lives in the apartment behind the house. She is a professional trendspotter; he is allegedly an artist, though he never seems to make any art. Together they have peculiar, adolescent-boy jokes, like talking in weird accents or pretending to masturbate a lip balm container until — well, you can probably imagine. If your response to that gag is anything but “Gross!”, you really need to go watch another Adam Sandler movie or something.
Slowly, though, the focus turns to Celeste and her inability to let Jesse go once he gets seriously involved with another woman with whom he had a fling previously. Even though the divorce was Celeste’s idea, she balks at Jesse’s sudden desire to grow up and act like an adult, and she spirals downward.
The idea that breaking up is hard to do isn’t a bad one; plenty of movies utilize it to great effect. Earlier this year, the smart, witty Lola Versus covered a lot of the same ground — in it, a young woman behaves badly in the wake of breaking up with her fiance — but Lola Versus attacked the premise with absurd humor that never ignored the pain and confusion of a breakup. Celeste and Jesse Forever is erratic. Sometimes it feels like an overgrown sketch, such as when it delves into a weird subplot about a Britney Spears-like star (Emma Roberts) who becomes one of Celeste’s clients.
Emotionally, it’s too pat for its own good (naturally Jesse wants to marry the one-night-stand he impregnated). You don’t believe Celeste for a minute when she tells a new guy that she needs to be alone for awhile. You know he’s coming back in short order to provide the happy ending. Here’s hoping she doesn’t want him to get a job, too.
Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samburg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger.
Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Mark McCormack.
Producers: Lee Nelson, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd.
A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 99 minutes. Language, sexual content, drug use. Playing at: In Miami-Dade: South Beach; in Broward: Paradise; in Palm Beach: Shadowood, Palace, Delray, Boynton