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'Celeste and Jesse Forever' review: Funny and frustrating

**1/2 (out of four)

Celeste (co-writer Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) both put their fingertips on a tiny squeeze bottle of lip balm. They rub up and down and make sexual noises. After a little while, they squeeze the tube. You know what happens next.

This is the epitome of an inside joke, the kind of thing that filters through the bloodstream of a relationship. These two still have no trouble laughing together. Yet for some reason the longtime sweethearts, who have been married for six years but separated six months ago, spend every day together anyway.

Their pals Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) suggest that Celeste and Jesse can’t go on this way, so they don’t. Jesse starts dating and suddenly winds up in something serious with a very underdeveloped Belgian beauty (Rebecca Dayan), while Celeste experiences some painfully awkward dates and focuses on her marketing work. Her latest account involves a bratty pop star (Emma Roberts) who’s behind beloved songs like “Do It On My Face.”

If “Celeste and Jesse Forever” means to comment on young love that doesn’t develop into the priorities of adulthood, it’s missing the conflict caused by Jesse refusing to grow up and it doesn’t fully explain how he’s able to finally change his ways. The movie, written by Jones and Will McCormack (who plays Jesse’s drug-dealer friend Skillz), begins with a massive, “The Break-Up”-style hole in it by chronicling a relationship via a vague montage. Was Jesse’s lack of ambition all that undermined the marriage? How did these two stay on such good terms as their relationship unraveled?

Samberg admirably steps up in an uncharacteristically dramatic role, and the immensely likable Jones, guiding Celeste through a messy, emotional, sometimes-intoxicated state on the path to recovery, absolutely confirms that the actress deserves more starring roles. Her natural rapport with Samberg makes hanging out with Celeste and Jesse a lot of fun.

Still, there are talks they either really need to have, or have had behind our backs. Since these two never seem to get a handle on their relationship, we don’t either.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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