Come hell or high water, modern film will someday capture what it means to be a hip person dating another hip person in a hip urban area. It has to, because it's doubtful that it has ever put so much time, money, and talent into any other pursuit. The latest effort to do so, Celeste and Jesse Forever, is as good a contribution as any, but to watch it is to ask a question that probably hasn't been asked enough: is it possible to be too hip? Both Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are so engaged, so with it, so clued in to what's next that they might as well have walked out of a McDonald's rebranding campaign. This may help to give it a sense of time and place long after the trends they follow go out of style, but it also serves to distance us from characters we're clearly supposed to relate to.
Celeste and Jesse have been separated for six months, but they still live together, still hang out together, still belabor obnoxiously twee jokes together (throughout the film, they pretend to masturbate miniature penis shaped objects such as baby corn). The papers on their divorce still aren't final, and it's starting to freak out their requisite couple friends Beth and Tucker (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen). Then again, maybe it's just too much work. Celeste is constantly busy with her PR firm that she runs with Scott (Elijah Wood), and Jesse, without even that mooring in his life, would probably be totally aimless. But the whole thing becomes more trouble than it's worth when Jesse reconnects with an old fling (Rebecca Dayan) and Celeste is approached by a new one (Chris Messina), and the fissures in their relationship, always dormant, start to expand.
You know those people in commercials who are always trading advice about yogurt and financial services while at yoga or eating salad in their desk? You probably don't, because they only exist in commercials, but they're the exact kind of people that Celeste and Jesse are (Celeste is, in fact, a professional trend-watcher). Which is to say, they're the kind of people you can imagine being familiar with products before their ad campaigns have even begun. They define themselves so much by the minutiae of their lifestyles that much of their dialogue is irrelevant fluff, an ornately decorated pile of frosting without any cake. Granted, most of the actors here are charming enough to pull that off (particularly Jones, who makes a solid case for her chops as a leading lady here), and when they're talking about things like Riley Banks (an obvious stand in for Miley Cyrus played by Emma Roberts), there's an appealing nugget of truth in Jones's and costar Will McCormack's screenplay. It's when they apply that same detail to their personal lives that something feels awry.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is entirely correct in its assertion that the line between friend and lover isn't as clean as it used to be, but there’s something false about the way these two intellectualize it. They clearly exist in some sort of no man’s land where sex is forbidden but true separation is impossible. It’s perhaps natural that these two would try to come up with labels for what they’re doing, but it’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t be messier than this. There are exasperated sighs, pained looks of longing, and even an argument out in public, but nowhere is any of the passion that would motivate this present. Even if this reflects the grim reality of being too hip for your own good, it’s impossible to find an entry point to this hyper-articulate world.
There are some deleted scenes, two commentaries with Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Will McCormack, and Lee Toland Krieger, a 'making-of', and "On The Red Carpet: Premiere and Q & A."
"Celeste and Jesse Forever" is on sale February 5, 2013 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. Written by Rashida Jones, Will McCormack. Starring Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Eric Christian Olsen, Rashida Jones, Rebecca Dayan, Will Mccormack.