Celeste & Jesse Are Too Old & Sweet for the Cha Cha Lounge"/>
The Screenplate: Celeste & Jesse Forever, co-written by the stunning comedienne Rashida Jones in a proactive effort to play against type, is the most satisfyingly nuanced American romantic comedy since The Break-Up. It's heartbreaking, but it could have been more so had it ended 10 minutes before it did, with Jones's Celeste drunk and lonely at the wedding of a pair of college friends (Eric Christian Olsen and the consistently delightful Ari Graynor). Yet, paradoxically, it's crammed with so many interesting characters that you want it to morph into an ensemble sitcom that airs for 10 years.
Celeste & Jesse (Andy Samberg, perfectly cast) are longtime romantic partners who are in the process of divorcing one another. Only he still lives in the studio connected to her Los Angeles home, and they're still best friends, going out for drinks and dinner together and engaging in insider humor, like simulating stroking off Go-Gurt tubes in the car. Despite their easy chemistry, the main fault line in their relationship is career-oriented: Celeste is a high-energy trend forecaster (her newest book is hilariously titled Shitegeist) while Jesse is a visual artist who's more motivated to surf Malibu swells than to get his compositions in front of interested parties.
Featuring wonderful supporting performances from Graynor, Elijah Wood, Will McCormack (side-splitting as a fast-talking pot dealer), Emma Roberts and Chris Messina (who also plays a key supporting role in the like-minded but inferior Ruby Sparks), C&J's lessons--that you shouldn't judge books by their covers, and shouldn't take what you have for granted--are by no means groundbreaking. It's a virtually inconsequential shortcoming, however: During the film's second third, Jesse drops a bomb on Celeste that makes it apparent that their divorce will actually be consummated, and the emotional deterioration Jones conveys from that point forward is downright devastating. That she manages to inject this portrayal with considerable humor is a phenomenal accomplishment, similar to Vince Vaughn's revelatory turn in The Break-Up.
Early in the film, Celeste and Jesse dine at L.A's Cha Cha Lounge with Graynor and her fiancee. This place exists in real life, and is affiliated with Seattle's Cha Cha. Only if Samberg, Jones and Graynor are hanging out there, it can't possibly be as hip as the one here. These three actors are very clever, and hipsters are fond of them, but they're not hipsters themselves. They're just a little too comfortable in their sweet, semi-dorky skin to speak in the insufferably affected tones of a Chantal Chadwick or don skinny jeans.