A quick glance at that title and you may have all your prejudices primed and ready to sneer. Is this yet another cutesy rom-com about two beautiful LA thirty-somethings who are just too darn quirky and adorable? Well yes it is, but in a post-Bridesmaids world, there is also something very believable and likeable about our titular schmucks.
When we meet Jesse (Samberg) and Celeste (Jones) they are an insanely happy couple. She’s a high-flying trend forecaster (yup, they exist) with her own marketing firm and he’s a beardy artist who can’t seem to get his act together. They’ve been friends since childhood, opposites who’ve attracted, and who now share their own private language and naughty in-jokes. They are very much in kooky lurve.
Maaaan, are they annoying. At least for the first ten minutes of this movie because what’s this? Jesse and Celeste are actually getting divorced after six years of marriage but they just can’t set each other free. When we learn this rather important fact at a couple-y dinner date with their uniformly-perfect friends, Toland Krieger’s movie departs from the usual telegraphed storylines and does something very refreshing – it becomes funny, cool, and very human.
The signing of those divorce papers are constantly put into abeyance as Celeste and Jesse drift through their lives, hooking up for mutual support and fun, and avoiding the emotional wrench of final separation. Their marriage may not have worked out but they rely deeply on each other so when Jesse breaks free and actually starts dating another girl, Celeste goes into a tailspin that forces her to question her choices and what the hell she is doing with her life.
The chemistry between the leads here is very good. Rashida Jones, daughter of composer and record producer Quincy and one of the best things about Parks and Recreation, co-wrote the script and she’s like a more attractive, less irritating Zooey Deschanel while Samberg, a graduate of Saturday Night Live and so good in the recent overlooked BBC3 sitcom Cuckoo, has the right amounts of silly slacker and nice-guy sensitivity.
Their respective sets of friends are also portrayed without labouring the women are from Venus; men are from the dark side of the moon clichés and the script crackles with a kind of Caucasian jive. There are smart observations about the dating game, the vacuity of the marketing industry, and the urge for everybody to sum up the modern malaise; Celeste is toting her new book which goes by the glorious title of Shitegeist.
In places it may come across like an extended episode of mid-period Friends with expletives, but this is also a serious movie about how hard it is to let go of one you love and when to realise that letting go is the right thing to do.