Celeste and Jesse Forever

August 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”)
Written by: Rashida Jones (debut) and Will McCormack (debut)

As someone who loathes the conventions and clichés of most modern-day romantic comedies as much as I do, actress/writer/producer Rashida Jones (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) just might be the perfect woman — at least the perfect woman to spend a day with at the movie theater. Suggest watching something where Katherine Hiegl flips her hair, stumbles around in heels, and falls for a hitman, and she probably wouldn’t be shy about rolling her eyes at the idea.

In the independent rom-com “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay with actor Will McCormack (TV’s “In Plain Sight”), seems to have made a concerted effort with him to avoid what makes many of these boy-meets-girl narratives feel exactly like the one that came before it. “C&JF” isn’t flawless in its attempt by any means, but with some clever dialogue that doesn’t overload on adorableness and an honest performance by Jones herself, there’s enough proof here to believe the genre doesn’t always have to feature a pre-packaged love story.

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”), “C&JF” stars Jones and Andy Samberg (“That’s My Boy”) as the title couple going through a divorce but attempting to save the friendship. As a successful marketing trends partner, Celeste has always quietly disapproved of Jesse’s starving-artist lifestyle. “He doesn’t have a checking account or dress shoes,” she criticizes. When both start dating again, the two must come to terms with their break-up by letting go of one another and moving on with their lives.

While the set up sounds like somewhat of a network sitcom, the script takes some unique angles at familiar situations and allows the nerdy chemistry between its leads to play out naturally. Not all rom-coms have to be “When Harry Met Sally” or “Annie Hall,” but it’s nice when they don’t make it a point to be the exact opposite.

Ruby Sparks

August 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”)
Written by: Zoe Kazan (debut)

Vanity Fair had the right idea late last year when it started recapping episodes of the comedy series “New Girl” by categorizing each of Zooey Deschanel’s idiosyncrasies as either “adorkable” (a personality trait described as dorky and adorable) or “tweepulsive” (the same trait, but at a more cloying level). It’s not a standard gauge for most critics, but with a surge of overly-quirky scripts like “Ruby Sparks” finding their way to the big and small screen in the last few years, it’s one that definitely needs to be adopted faster than Greta Gerwig can ride her vintage Schwinn to a nerdcore concert. Aren’t stereotypes fun?

Add the name Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of legendary director Elia Kazan) into the ever-growing list of annoyingly-charming actresses who will find it difficult to inject the right amount of cuteness into a role before someone decides they want to put a pillow over said actress’s face. The possibility for asphyxiation is two-fold for Kazan who not only stars in Sparks, but is also credited as the lone screenwriter. The story follows Calvin (Paul Dano), a novelist with writer’s block who writes a female character (with his typewriter, of course) for his new book and is stunned when she appears in the real world.

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”), “Sparks” is a clever little idea reminiscent of 2006’s underappreciated Will Ferrell comedy “Stranger Than Fiction.” Its problem, however, lies in Kazan’s calculated screenplay, which never materializes into anything as interesting as its initial concept. Kazan shows signs of potential, but she fluffs up Sparks instead of examining its darker elements. Until she learns naming a writer’s dog F. Scott Fitzgerald is beyond pretentious (and even more so if she is being ironic), she’ll settle somewhere in the middle of the pack where writers suffering from writer’s block isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Julie & Julia

August 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle”)
Written by: Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle”)

Whether you’re a glutton or a light eater, it would be difficult not to enjoy what director Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle”) serves up in her double-biopic “Julia & Julia.” The film, which stars two-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep and two-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams, is as tasty as a French Quiche Lorraine. Who says real men don’t eat it?

In half of the film, Streep plays American chef and French cuisine mastermind Julia Child before she actually knew how to even make an omelet. We watch Streep embody Child while living in Paris in the 40s and 50s and trying to find something to do to keep her busy while her husband (Stanley Tucci) attends to his work as a foreign diplomat.

With a love of French food, Child decides to take French cooking lessons at the culinary arts school Le Cordon Bleu after hobbies like hat making and playing bridge don’t fulfill her needs. There she finds the joy of cooking and proves to her all-male class that a woman has just as much right to run a professional kitchen as a man.
Working in harmony with Child’s biography is the story of Julie Powell (Adams), an insurance claims representative who wants more out of life than her monotonous nine to five job. A fan of Child, she, too, has a fascination for food, but doesn’t realize what a fantastic cook she actually is until she challenges herself to a “deranged assignment.”

The goal: to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which we also see Child undertake in her portion of the film. Not only will Julie cook boeuf bourguignon and bouillabaisse, she will also update an online blog about her experiences while performing such a demanding feat.

While Julia’s story is much more enjoyable to the cinematic pallet than her counterpart Julie’s sometimes irritable journey, the parallels between these women’s lives are sincere offerings from Ephron. Streep once again proves why she is arguably the best actress of her generation, while Adams’ starry-eyed disposition makes her a perfect choice for Julie. If you can get past her meltdowns and focus on the melting butter in a saucepan instead, “Julie & Julia” is as delicate and satisfying as the caramelized sugar covering of a crème brulee.