Thursday, October 4, 2012

Celeste & Jesse Forever (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Celeste and Jesse Forever

"Celeste and Jesse Forever" is an innocent and touching tale of intimacy and friendship. Andy Samberg of "Saturday Night Live" stars as Jesse, a struggling and passive artist, who nonetheless has a warmth and a passion for his  wife, Celeste  (Screenwriter Rashida Jones) who he is only just separated from.  
Samberg is nicely understated here as the role calls for. There is little wacky humor in the tradition of his skits on SNL, but his portrayal does bear a resemblance to the Judd Apatow actor Jason Segal. Samberg is amiable, self-deprecating and cuddly. If anything he is  more akin to Matthew Broderick---a straight man with a subtle lunacy.
Jesse is fond of doing risqué simulations with phallic objects, and Celeste gleefully obliges without fail.
Odder still, Celeste and Jesse spend most of every day together, especially as Jesse rents from Celeste. 
Mutual friends Beth (Ari Gaynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) become concerned and freaked out by the former couples German baby talk act and intimacy together, but the sticky  closeness continues.
Celeste and Jesse do try to move on separately and go out with their own friends, but they cannot get the hang of doing anything alone. Jesse goes out with a sexist wet noodle, Skillz (Co-writer Will McCormack) and Celeste pals around with her platonic co-worker (Elijah Wood). Both Skillz and Scott are tepid comforts and offer little support. 
Celeste goes on a dating spree, but cannot get excited by anyone. They are all ho-hum gotta run. Except for photojournalist Nick (Matthew Del Negro) but he has no cigar. Nick is a masturbating narcissist. 
Surprise, surprise, it is Jesse who finds a new love in the exotic, but gentle Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) and is forced to deal with this new event, not to mention breaking the news to his best friend, Celeste.
To be sure, the narrative is quite formulaic here: harmonious love-buddies pledge allegiance and then grow apart. They scream and yell and have it out. They leave each other with grim resolve, but pine away, frequently in solitude.
You have seen it in so many ways before.Yet it works and manages to get under your skin. Samberg and Jones have such  an easy and touchable chemistry that their softness and humor is impossible to ignore. When they are together, their scenes are less  of an acting gig, than an interpretation of a suburban Castor and a female Pollux. (If there could be such a thing) They touch and poke at each other with a tangible and quiet frankness.
Moreover, there are plenty of romantic and sensual laughs to go around. The date scenes in particular show a facility and an attention to dialogue that makes each vignette pointed and authentic. Each of these small scenes are never sappy or overly sweet.
In tone and detail, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" echoes the tone of  Drake Doremus' "Like Crazy", which ran at The Tropic this past year. Each zany moment is counterbalanced with a foreboding of leave-taking and isolation.
Celeste and Jesse's final silences will induce more than a few tears, and you will hope that Jesse can somehow hang on. Better still, the drama has a solid and beguiling intensity. Within the positive and negative spaces created by our two twins who walk away, we can almost see the after-image of two exclusively interlocked hands.

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