Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play high school sweethearts in Celeste and Jesse Forever ... a breath of fresh air for the romantic comedy genre.
Good news! Two decent films come out today. They are The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Celeste and Jesse Forever. We are spoiled, aren't we?
First up, let's look at Celeste and Jesse Forever. This one stars Rashida Jones (of Parks and Recreation fame), who also penned the script with her friend Will McCormack.
As the above trailer shows, it tells the story of a couple who married young, and who are struggling to redefine their relationship as the dust settles on their separation. Anyone who has had a long-term relationship disintegrate will find a lot of touchstones here.
The film centres on the problems that are encountered when you want to stay friends with your ex. The complications that arise from trying to hold on when you're meant to be letting go and the pain that occurs when one partner manages to move on before the other does.
The reason this film is a triumph is that it avoids so many of the cliches that plague traditional romantic-comedies. The characters feel like real people we'd actually be friends with rather than over the top caricatures (so much so that one reviewer described Jones as "the anti-Kate Hudson") and the dialogue has a very natural quality to it. The arguments in particular have a very raw feel about them. There's no beautiful-crying here - it's all ugly and real and harsh.
Rashida Jones is fantastic as Celeste. She perfectly embodies the character of a control-freak-who-is-also-vulnerable, which is quite a balancing act. She is matched by Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg, who shines as Jesse. It's great to see him in a more serious role (though thankfully he's still given the occasional opportunity to flex his comedy muscle). His confusion and sadness is palpable throughout the film. While the two leads work well as separate entities, they also have a natural chemistry together ... the film simply wouldn't have worked without it.
The two leads are supported by an excellent ensemble cast. You get the sense that the cast are incredibly familiar with one another, and that most of them are possibly friends in real life. Co-writer McCormack appears as a well-meaning pot dealer, young up-and-comer Emma Roberts plays an irksome popstar and Elijah Wood appears as Celeste's business partner.
Do see it if you get the chance. It's such a refreshing change for the genre.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower is adapted from Stephen Chbosky's best-selling novel which tells the story of 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman), a self-confessed wallflower who is coming to terms with the death of his best friend, a procession of haunting family memories and the fear of facing his first year at high school.
The introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two senior students, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who "welcome him to the real world".
Author Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the film and also came on board as director. And while it was clearly a risk having such an inexperienced director helm the project, it has worked beautifully in this instance. His intimate knowledge of the stories and the characters means it has stayed true to the pain and poetry and raw humour that is so prevalent in the book.
As with any film adapted from a book, there are always going to be scenes and dialogue that are left out. And there are some fairly big plot points that have been completely ommited from the film. But, pleasingly, this doesn't detract from the experience in any way. The film still hangs together as a wonderful portrait of a funny-yet-poignant journey through puberty.
Both Lerman and Watson are excellent in their respective roles, but the real revelation here is Ezra Miller, who plays Sam's gay half-brother Patrick. He carries off both the comedic scenes and the painful moments with absolute ease. He's almost unrecognisable as Tilda Swinton's troubled son in 2011's We Need To Talk About Kevin - a sign of a true chameleon actor. The other star of this film is the music. Mix tapes play a strong role in this story, and thus it's fitting that the film has an excellent late '80s/early '90s soundtrack. Think The Cocteau Twins, David Bowie and The Smiths - the perfect bitter-sweet soundtrack for a gloriously bitter-sweet movie.
Also opening today:
Red Dawn: A group of teenagers look to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers. Apparently terrible.
Fun Size: Wren's plan to attend a huge Halloween party thrown by the guy she likes goes awry when she's put in charge of her oddball little brother, who quickly wanders off on his own. This might be fun if you're 12.
In the pipeline:
This is 40, the new feature from Judd Apatow, which is a 'sort of' sequel to Knocked-Up will be releasing soon. To whet your appetite here's a feature trailer where Apatow and cast-members give a bit of a sneak peek. Warning, it has a bunch of swears, so may not be ideal to blast it from your workplace speakers.