Has it been a bit too long since a piece of art forced you to relive some less savory moments of your romantic past? Well, have I got the movie for you! With a cast exclusively populated by thespians known for comedy, Celeste and Jesse Forever doesn't immediately seem like the kind of movie that requires tissues, which is why I'm giving you fair warning. Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg star as the titular duo, whose official courtship ends with the snazzy opening credits. Longtime sweethearts going through a divorce, Celeste and Jesse are besties to the degree that no legal documents could keep them from spending their free time with one another. What could, however, is the rampant romantic and social confusion that descends upon them as they attempt to keep their friendship intact. Both Jones and Samberg are terrific in the film, employing their low-key screen presences to perfect effect, their bubbly, warm chemistry keeping the downer afloat. Director Lee Toland Krieger ensures that things move at a zippy clip, highlighting emotional turning points and subtle revelations with equal aplomb. If you're looking for an admirably crafted, honest break-up movie that doesn't go for the jugular (I'm looking at you, Blue Valentine), you'd be wise to check this one out.
Safety Not Guaranteed:
Oh, wait, you didn't want something so sad, and would rather your romances be light-hearted, endearing, and winning? I've got something for you, too! SNG stars Aubrey Plaza as largely the same jaded-as-hell girl that we've all come to know and love, but in much different circumstances. Serving as an intern at an independent Seattle newspaper, Darius (Plaza) volunteers to help on an article that puts her face-to-face with Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a man who posted a personal ad looking for a partner to... wait for it... travel back in time with him. What sounds like a kooky premise on paper is, well, a kooky premise on the big screen, but that's a lot of SNG's charm. Outside of its wonderful cast, the film is a marvelous entertainment, moving from one charming, breezy, funny sequence to the next with no discernible effort, and a touch of style to boot. Helmer Colin Trevorrow has cooked up something absolutely delicious and delightful, a modest effort with a firm grasp on what movie magic is made of.
This recommendation comes with a qualification. The lyrical content on Moms, quite frankly, a bit much for this writer (one song opens, "Heavy are the branches, hanging from my f***ed up family tree," which is only the tip of the iceberg). That's not to say that co-frontmen Justin Harris and Danny Seim haven't endured troubles enough to write an album this wrought with hurt, but their phraseology can be a touch blunt. What I have no qualms with, on the other hand, is the band's instrumentation, always varied, swirling, lovely, and unpredictable, as much so here as ever. Listen as seemingly subtle opener Plumage adds layer after layer, or how Pique manages to stack one sound on top of another with meticulous care. Just about every tune here is a dense accumulation of sounds, each building from one minute to the next, sonically robust as all get-out by the time the track ends. A lyric-less Moms would be near album-of-the-year status for me, but the actual release at hand is still something to celebrate.