'Celeste and Jesse' not your average rom-com

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Entertainment,Movies,Brian Hughes

"Celeste and Jesse Forever" proves that Rashida Jones has a future beyond the small screen.

Her foray into film, at least thus far, has been defined by bit parts and ineffectual comedic turns.

But here, the "Parks and Recreation" mainstay delivers a witty and genuine portrait of the comforts and dangers of lazy relationships that is far more substantial than most romantic comedies.

Onscreen
'Celeste and Jesse Forever'
3 out of 4 stars
Stars: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Chris Messina and Emma Roberts
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Rated: R for language, sexual content and drug use
Running Time: 91 minutes

Best friends since high school, Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) carry on much the same way they have for years -- even though they broke up six months ago and are destined for divorce. They go to dinner with friends, cackle over the same inside jokes and basically live together.

What they see as their mature approach to the breakup, however, carries obvious hazards as the ease of familiarity breeds an existence stuck in pause mode.

The primary reason such an audacious arrangement seems so believable is that Samberg and Jones ooze chemistry together. It's easy to see why it's daunting for them to accept that friendship and romance are two different beasts altogether.

But as a Type A personality, Celeste grows impatient with the man-child embodied by Samberg. And affection is overshadowed by Celeste's singular obsession to prove that beyond all else, she's always right.

When Jesse finally moves on, director Lee Toland Krieger lays on Jones' meltdown a bit thick. She resorts to booze, pot and cat-lady clothes in a manner that doesn't mesh with the authenticity of the rest of the film, but plays for some cheap laughs.

And Jesse's flirtation with adulthood and his new romantic interest are never fully developed to the extent of Celeste's battle to get over her own sanctimony. Regardless, you'll root for both characters even as they embark down a path lined with one stupid choice after another -- they seem like three-dimensional figures you'd encounter in your life.

A strong supporting cast, including Elijah Wood as Celeste's friend and work partner and Chris Messina as a power yuppie courting the too-cool-for-school leading lady, buoys such affinity.

After such a strong writing debut, Jones will likely have many suitors for her next. And Samberg could parlay his comedic talents into meatier roles in the future.

But this story is ultimately about Jones and whether her Celeste can toss aside her self-destructive behavior. And the film concludes on a completely earned note that cements its refusal to use convention as a crutch.

It may not reinvent the wheel, but "Celeste and Jesse" avoids so many of the pitfalls that have defined this tired genre that audiences should leave satisfied by an effort that presents moments of true insight.

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