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.

I Love You, Man

March 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones
Directed by: John Hamburg (“Along Came Polly”)
Written by: John Hamburg (“Meet the Parents”) and Larry Levin (“Dr. Dolittle”)

Making friends was always easiest in kindergarten. Running around the playground pretending to be a stealth ninja was an automatic invitation for anyone your age to jump on board with their imaginary nunchaku and go to town with your imagination. It was so uncomplicated not to have to pass judgment on a potential buddy at the age of five.

In “I Love You, Man,” Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is a little older and a little more desperate than your average sociable grade-schooler. Never really experiencing what it was like to have a male best friend (his family describes him as a “girl friend guy”), Peter is pressured into searching for a new friend who can become the best man at his upcoming wedding.

While his fiancée Zooey (Rashida Jones) is brimming over with bridesmaids, Peter is a friendless, softhearted real estate agent who starts envying other man-to-man relationships once he’s assigned the task of finding someone he might like to hang out with. He starts his manhunt by going on a few “man-dates” with some prospects and spending some time playing poker with Barry (John Favreau), the husband of one of Zooey’s friends (Jamie Pressly). It doesn’t help, however, that Barry literally hates Peter and both have nothing in common with each other.

Things take a turn for the better when Peter meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), a laid-back, outspoken bachelor who crashes one of Peter’s open houses for the free food. The two hit it off right from the beginning and Peter starts spending more time at Sydney’s “man cave” jamming out on the bass and, well, doing things guys do when the significant other isn’t around. All is well until their bro-mance begins to affect Peter and Zooey’s relationship towards the film’s final act. (What is Peter supposed to do when Sydney wants to go out Sunday, the night when he and Zooey cuddle up and watch HBO?).

As many other comedic filmmakers are starting to do, John Hamburg (“Along Came Polly”) does his best to give us shades of Judd Apatow humor, which is even more evident with the casting of Rudd, an Apatow favorite. It’s a great choice, really, since Rudd can usually do no wrong (with the exception of “Over Her Dead Body”). His sweetly sensitive guy role while typical does mesh fantastically well with Segel.

Aside from the evident chemistry between the two, there are a few ongoing jokes in “I Love You, Man” that stray from the freshness Apatow has built his franchise on. This includes a bit where Peter’s social awkwardness has him constantly spitting out the most incomprehensible expressions when there’s nothing left to say. During these moments, it’s fairly easy to tell where Rudd and other actors are given more room to improvise. That’s when the comedic timing seems to hit a few speed bumps, mostly when a scene is about to wrap up.

Despite some fluffy moments, “I Love You, Man” can still be considered part of the recent onslaught of comedies defined by their quality mix of vulgarity and heart. While Apatow isn’t behind this one, it’s obvious he’s a major influence.