CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Film Review: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg in ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’
CHICAGO – Rashida Jones has been a reliable co-star for years in films like “I Love You, Man” and TV shows like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” but she gets her most notable role to date in a film she co-wrote, the romantic dramedy “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” opening this weekend in Chicago. Jones’ complex performance is the best thing about a film that ultimately feels a bit too unfocused, almost as if Jones and her co-writer Will McCormack took the opportunity to use every idea they had about the art of the break-up without streamlining their concepts into something more coherent and entertaining. Despite a very strong lead performance, “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is a film that never builds the right rhythm, lurching forward instead of flowing like the films that so clearly inspired it.
Our first notable interaction with Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) is at a restaurant/bar with friends Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen). It feels like a standard double date. Celeste and Jesse have chemistry, in-jokes, and what seems like genuine happiness. It’s not until Beth & Tucker reveal that they can’t handle the awkwardness that we realize that the title is tongue-in-cheek – Celeste and Jesse have broken up. In fact, they are divorced with Jesse living in the home behind Celeste. How can you move on when you’re still such a close friend with your ex? Is that even possible?
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Celeste and Jesse Forever” in our reviews section.|
Celeste tries to date, meeting a guy at yoga named Paul (Chris Messina) who shows interest and goes on with her work life (where she’s employed by Elijah Wood to deal with a troublesome pop starlet played by Emma Roberts). Jesse moves on as well, meeting a lovely young woman named Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) with whom it looks like he could start another life. McCormack co-stars as a pot-dealing friend of both Celeste and Jesse.
I admire how Jones and McCormack avoid the clichés of their characters. Jesse could have easily just been another pot-smoking loser, the kind of Hollywood guy who serves little purpose other than to show audiences how our heroine could do better. They don’t demonize either of their lead characters and Samberg and Jones are the best thing about the film. They’re three-dimensional and engaging.
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Photo credit: Sony Pictures