Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: 2 Days in New York vs. Celeste and Jesse Forever, two independent romantic comedies that have made rounds through the film festival circuit.
2 Days in New York is the follow-up to the Woody Allen-esque rom-com 2 Days in Paris (though seeing the prequel is not essential). Marion (Julie Delpy) and Mingus (Chris Rock) live cozily together with their two young children from previous relationships. But things get a little too close for comfort when Marion's French father, hypersexual sister, and sister's ridiculous boyfriend (who, surprise!, happens to be one of Marion's past flames) drop in for a visit in the couple's cramped loft. The film grabs on to every French cliché possible, from the family's frank talks about sex to their love of cheese and distaste for hygiene. But the movie delivers the humor—albeit sometimes in the form of predictable jokes.
Celeste and Jesse Forever opens with Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Sandberg) acting like the quintessential perfect couple. They have inside jokes, secret sign language, and nauseatingly cute chemistry. The only surprise? They divorced six months ago. Now in their 30s, the high-school sweethearts are best friends and don't see a reason to let a divorce get in the way of that. But when big romantic changes happen, their lives are thrown into emotional turmoil. Though both films can be slotted in the indie rom-com category, Celeste and Jesse Forever moves past the slightly vacuous stigma of the genre. Thanks to complex and honest characterizations, the movie seems to have a certain depth of emotional maturity that 2 Days in New York fails to reach. The story (co-written by Jones), which promises both melancholic introspection and great comedic moments, is ultimately a rumination about the trouble of letting go and evolving.
Advantage: Celeste and Jesse Forever
Both 2 Days in New York director Julie Delpy (who is also the lead actress) and Celeste and Jesse's Lee Toland Krieger have experience in the indie film circuit. Krieger's melodrama, A Vicious Kind, received favorable reviews after premiering in Sundance in 2009. But when it comes to the romantic comedy genre, Delpy definitely has the upper hand. The precursor to her current film, 2 Days in Paris, was praised by critics for its sharp and witty humor; and Delpy's career as an actress has been a steady, fruitful one. Though Krieger shows promise, we have to go with Delpy on this one.
Advantage: 2 Days in New York
Celeste and Jesse's emotional chemistry is undeniable, largely thanks to the way Jones and Krieger depict each character's struggle to handle the separation. Celeste is a motivated, high-powered consultant who convinces herself that divorcing Jesse, who is complacent and unemployed, is the right thing to do. Jesse comes to terms with the separation head-on by crying and acting generally like a sad, adorable puppy. Celeste, who comes off as anal and a bit controlling, goes on a self-destructive downward spiral, illustrating the depth of her emotional attachment to Jesse.
Though Mingus and Marion have some hilarious interactions with each other, romantically we're not really buying it. Delpy and Rock nail the funny stuff. But the movie overall comes off as more "com" and less "rom," leaving us to question why Mingus and Marion are together in the first place.
Advantage: Celeste and Jesse Forever
2 Days in New York reads like one long, funny sitcom. Mingus excels at dealing with Marion's circus of a family, providing the audience with laugh-at-loud facial expressions. The movie also features tried-and-true comedic standards like sisterly catfights and fathers who stuff sausages in their pants.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is one of those laugh-cry movies. The humor largely comes from Jones' portrayal of Celeste as a control freak who tries to convince herself that she is okay with a progression of bad dates and binge-eating spells. The supporting cast, featuring Elijah Wood as Celeste's gay business partner and Emma Roberts as a faded pop star, help round out the humor.
Though 2 Days in New York will sure to be a crowd-pleaser, we've got to give this one to Celeste and Jesse Forever. Krieger and Jones promise more complex, heartbreakingly honest characters. We have high hopes for Celeste and Jesse Forever as the rare rom-com that isn't limited by its genre.
Winner: Celeste and Jesse Forever
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