Two days left of the Los Angeles Film Festival™, and already I’m feeling somewhat sad. It’s been an incredible ride I don’t quite want to see end, but all good things must come to an end, and this particular venue is certainly a very good thing. Yesterday, Terence Johnson and I were both able to screen the new Rashida Jones’ penned comedy, Celeste and Jesse Forever. Because Terence didn’t have a press pass or ticket, he had to stand in the rush line before the ushers would allow anyone into the theater. Terence had zero confidence of making it into the screening, but I kept texting him that he most assuredly would, and he did indeed! I guess Terence forgot to read all my clairvoyant American Idol predictions this past spring. Oh well, it’s never too late to learn that I’m just your average psychic! Below are some of our thoughts concerning the screenings and events we partook in on the eighth day at LAFF.
5:30pm – 7:10pm:
Up first was newcomer Lee Toland Krieger’s Celeste and Jesse Forever. This movie marks the first showcase of Rashida Jones’ writing abilities for a feature film, as both she and actor Will McCormick co-wrote the screenplay for this indie-comedy. Rashida Jones proves (unsurprisingly) that she can write herself best of all (Rashida herself starred in the film as Celeste), but struggles when it comes to giving other characters their own unique identities. The first two-thirds of the movie bordered on painful, but I was always drawn to Rashida’s performance whenever she was on-screen. The good news is that despite sharing the title with Celeste, Andy Samberg — who plays Jesse in the film — doesn’t nearly have as much screen time as Jones. The less of Samberg’s god-awful acting (although he was good in one scene — I’ll give you that, Terence!), the better. The final third of the film came together quite well, ending on a wonderful note that almost, and I stress almost, erased the torture that came beforehand. Unlike yours truly, Terence greatly admired Celeste and Jesse Forever, and was shocked by Samberg’s decent acting in the film (to be fair to Terence, this is the first I’ve seen Samberg act in a movie, so I’m sure this is “Marlon Brando status” compared to his heinous and deplorable roles of the past). Although we severely disagreed about this newest addition to the indie rom-com pool, we still had a fun time arguing and debating Celeste and Jesse Forever long after the screening ended.
7:45pm – 9:10pm:
After Celeste and Jesse Forever, Terence had to leave to see the screening of HBO’s The Newsroom, followed by a Q&A session with series creator Aaron Sorkin. Keeping on track with my itinerary, I next watched Cosima Spender’s deeply personal documentary concerning her late-artist grandfather, entitled Without Gorky. You don’t often see documentaries where the cinematographer or director is an actual realitve of their photo-captured subjects. In that sense, Without Gorky was rather unique. Their grandfather — simply called “Gorky” — was a tragic man in the same vein as artists whose genius couldn’t overcome their madness and melancholy. This isn’t a spoiler since the film announces it up front, but Gorky committed suicide after he found himself unable to control his emotions, completely helpless to the anger and rage that threatened to bring grave harm to his family. His suicide leaves a deep rift in the family that’s almost impossible to mend. Gorky’s wife “Mougouch” has a strained relationship with her daughters after Gorky’s suicide drove her to a near meltdown. Instead of dealing with the pressure of looking after her children following this incident, she sent her two daughters to boarding school where they suffered and soon came to resent “Mougouch.” I love how the camera picks up on the palpable tensions in the room between mother and daughters, not physically seen but clearly visible nonetheless. Without Gorky is a fascinating documentary, made even greater by centralizing its focus within the sphere of the family.
Th-th-th-that’s all folks! Once again, I hope you enjoyed this diary session, and be on the lookout for Terence’s reactions to LAFF and his experience with the one and only Aaron Sorkin! Au revoir, dear readers!