Getting Back The One Who Got Away
It's quite uncanny, but the message shared by English Vinglish about couples coming together to form a family unit, also found itself resonated in this movie. The trailer may have billed it as a romantic comedy of sorts, but in fact this film is quite depressing, especially for those who have their heart broken once before, and have taken much time to come to terms with it because of pride, ego, or just plain refusal to let go and move on.
The title may seem like two lovers who cannot separate themselves from each other, and make every opportunity possible a declaration of their love, relationship and togetherness. But once the opening credits are over, we begin to realize, like how the trailer began, that both Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) have separated from their marriage because they find themselves quarrelling a lot more often when under matrimonial vows. So they call it quits. They still keep in touch and hangout almost every day, and are happier with this arrangement instead since they're not screaming at each other. We also learn that they live almost next door, with Jesse just having to move to his standalone studio which sits in the compound of their home.
Just why they separated isn't dwelled upon, since who would want to explore an unhappy past, but slowly and surely, we learn why they couldn't get along. Some are destined to be best friends, and taking a step further in marrying one may just happen to be that wrong move that can jeopardize a firm friendship. They take that ocassional break from each other's presence, but ultimately find that it's probably the easiest way to go back, and there's nothing more comforting than to confide in a trusted someone. Unlike my other favourite film of the year in Ruby Sparks, this one didn't have much of an uplift for a finale, because it wallowed too much, and cut a little too close to reality, unlike the other mentioned film that has a certain degree of fantasy thrown in.
Executive produced and co-written by Rashida Jones, one may not be faulted for thinking that this was more of a Celeste centric story despite its title, because of the character's screen time and the dwelling on issues that Celeste faces throughout the course of the story. Jesse gets written away for the most parts in the middle act fairly quickly and easily, because he's off trying to be a would be father to his unborn child, conceived by a Belgian woman with whom he had a one night stand with. This means Celeste is left out on her own, and have to get back into the dating game, making this something like the 40 Year Old Virgin, without the sexy bits, but having likely to be drawn from experience and the school of hard knocks. This makes it strikingly real, with moments that one will be able to identify with.
Director Lee Toland Krieger may have crafted a winner here, boosted by the various strong performances from the leads, but the cinematographic aspect could have been improved. I'm not quite sure if someone out there actually advocates shaky-cam as a technique best utilized for a reflection of reality, but frankly it just draws attention to itself when people start to curse at the shaky cam, and makes viewing a lot more difficult, especially during scenes of contemplation. The dialogues are top notch, as is the more introspective examination into the dynamics of how relationships get broken, the refusal to let go, and the very sad competition, or perceived competition, about who could recover from the ordeal first without a tinge of demonstrated regret.
Or has how English Vinglish puts it, a relationship is best amongst equals, or to help the other when down, and not shooting each other down with expectations that are never satiated. Otherwise it's a recipe for disaster, no matter how strong a friendship it could be. Celeste and Jesse still remarkably stay friends, but the cracks do show up every now and then, and these fill in the blanks for the audience wondering how their firm friendship, with countless of inside jokes and private moments amongst the two, could have gone all the way south instead.
And add to that the supporting cast of Elijah Wood as Celete's manager at work, and Emma Roberts as a skanky engineered pop star, really playing against type, just makes the narrative here seem fuller, again centered around Celeste's professional life as a trend analyst, very much opposite the laid back Jesse's freelance artist. At some point in time, Celeste makes a confession of an expectation desired in a husband, and that probably sealed the deal without her consciously realizing it. I suppose these moments of honesty are what we need to catch ourselves, and from there realize how issues and problems could stem from them.
It just about possess equivalent heart and soul poured into it as Ruby Sparks, but its melancholic tone may be a tad too depressing for some. Still, other than its cinematography, this is one solid tale about love found, love lost, and love left confused. It's about letting go when the time is up, and not to hang on to the past for longer than necessary. A definite recommendation.