‘Two Days in New York’ and ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ — two August films

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Movies released in the dump days of August are not movies for which distributors have big hopes. Thus, 12 movies opened last week and another dozen or more are being released before Labor Day.

Two of the films are about couples troubles.

In “2 Days in New York,” Julie Delpy and Chris Rock (in his best movie performance) are trying to stay together despite her rambunctious brood of assorted French relatives and friends of relatives who’ve descended upon them for the titular two days.

In “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” the title pair, played by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, want a divorce, but seem more bonded than most long-marrieds.

The films have different tones, with Delpy/Rock picture more raucous and the Jones/Sandberg more dependent on verbal humor.

Yet the two have two things very much in common. First, they concentrate on the female point of view more than the male (though neither of the men are neglected). Second, both were written by their female stars or, in the case of “Celeste and Jesse,” co-written by Jones and Will McCormack who also has a small but hilarious role as a friendly dope dealer being driven out of business by the medical marijuana stores popping up all over L.A.

So I guess it’s come to this: If you want to play a three-dimensional role in a movie and you’re a double BLAH, you’d better write it yourself.

I enjoyed both. Mind you, I didn’t all-out love either. But compared the the crap that’s dominated the summer of 2012 (“Ted” anyone?), I absolutely recommend them to anyone looking for something other than a superhero movie or aging musclemen like Sly Stallone. Or a vulgar teddy bear (“Ted” anyone?)

Ultimately, “2 Days” has the edge probably because Delpy’s French-accented point-of-view is less familiar. It’s also far more farcical as her family runs amok in their tiny apartment and then out in Manhattan in general. The bitchy sister’s stoner boyfriend, played with a sanctimonious dash of Gallic self-regard by Alex Nahon, is both especially obnoxious and especially funny.

“Celeste and Jesse” is closer to the stars’ TV roots. The movie even unfolds in commercial-break-ready bits as Jesse actually makes a move toward separation and Celeste, previously the dominant one in the marriage, has to deal with it.

They’ve also surrounded themselves with a pleasant supporting cast, including the aforementioned McCormack, Emma Roberts and an unrecognizable Elijah Wood (yes, his Hobbit days are over).

Which would I see? Both or either. Delpy’s film is unrulier; its edges are rougher and the humor broader. Jones’s picture goes down smoother but, of course, is more familiar. Still, it gets in some good digs. For instance, Celeste’s job is as a “trend forecaster.”

The conclusion, I guess, is that it’s a shame two perfectly decent movies are being consigned to the junk heap. With the end of summer looming, most folks will be soaking up their last bit of sunshine. And when both movies flop, Hollywood can, yet again, claim that audiences don’t go to female-driven movies.

But if you don’t know about them, it’s hard to go to them. Right?

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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